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I’m sure Russian writer Leo Tolstoy wasn’t thinking about the Palmetto State when he quoted Gen. Kutuzov in “War and Peace.”
“Patience and time. Time and patience.”
But these words of wisdom seem to make a lot of sense for South Carolinians – both old and new, alike – as we continue to try to live and work together amicably in this weird and wonderful place we call home.
Our state is changing. We must work together to understand and harness change for the benefit of all. A little time and patience – from both new and old South Carolinians – will make things go smoother and work out best for all in the long run.
First, a little history.
From our earliest days as a state, there has always been a conflict between those of us who have “been here” and those of us who have “come here.”
When my people, Scots-Irish settlers, first came down through the Shenandoah Valley and moved into the wilds of what is now upstate South Carolina in the 1760s, the good people of Charleston called us “the scum of two nations.” So much for Southern hospitality.
However, for most of our state’s history, we have seen a big fluctuation in our population.
With the exception of the Great Migration (the exodus of blacks to the North) that began after the Civil War and continued until the middle of the 20th century, our population was stable.
As late as the 1970s, South Carolina had a higher percentage of its population that were native-born than practically any other state.
However, in recent years, this trend has begun to change; we now have one of the highest growth rates of in-migration in the United States.
Two distinct groups have moved into our state. The first group is largely white retirees, usually from the Northeast and Midwest. Many of these folks first came to our state to visit Myrtle Beach and later decided to retire here to take advantage of our great lifestyle – wonderful weather, beautiful natural environment, friendly people and relatively low taxes.
The second group is largely black, both young and old. No one knows exactly how many black South Carolinians headed north during the Great Migration, perhaps over 1 million. However, since the 1970s, this migration has reversed; their children and grandchildren are moving back home. Many of these people spent their summers in South Carolina living with relatives, and these family roots, lower cost of living and new post-civil rights job opportunities have lured them back to our state. They are a part or what some are calling the New Great Migration.
The mixing of these “came heres” and “been heres” isn’t always smooth. New South Carolinians get frustrated with our slow ways, lack of openness and our seeming inability to move beyond our Civil War-era legacy.
Native South Carolinians get tired of hearing “how they do it up North” from folks who seem to always look down their noses at us. It’s the same, regardless of race.
They are both right, and we all need the same things to make this work for everyone – time and patience, patience and time.
A good friend of mine is a Jewish New Yorker, who more than 10 years ago moved to the Savannah Lakes retirement community in rural McCormick County. He always amuses me in that when he is talking about some problem we have in this state, it’s always about “you people.” However, when he’s talking about something good, it’s always “we” and “our.”
But would he ever consider moving back?
“Are you kidding me?” he told me long ago, in answer to that question. “Never in a million years.”
Through the years, I’ve tried to patiently listen to his “you people” ranting and ravings and he’s tried to be equally patient with my “been here” foibles. Despite being a grandfather with no children in the state, he recently and proudly ran for school board because “someone has got to look out for our children.”
Time and patience. Patience and time.
I’ve been fortunate to travel the globe in my business. I’ve seen regions and countries that are growing and thriving in the fast-changing world of the 21st century, along with those that are falling further and further behind. The one thing success stories have in common is that they are open to new ideas, new people and new ways of looking at the world.
The Palmetto State has enormous potential. We can indeed lead the world as we once did in business, technology, education and the arts. But to do this, we have to all work together and learn from each other, while exercising understanding and patience.
Gen. Kutuzov was a real person, a heroic and successful military leader in numerous wars of imperial Russia. When the Soviets toppled the imperial tsar and seized power, they recognized the value of the great wisdom of Kutuzov and, during World War ll, they named their highest military honor the Order of Kutuzov.
When the political wheel turned again and the Soviets were replaced by the current government, they still retained the Order of Kutuzov.
If his wisdom has sustained Russia through its many wars and revolutions, it’s probably a pretty good guide for us as we struggle with the battle of old versus new in South Carolinians.
Time and patience. Patience and time.