In the early hours of the morning of July 9, I had to make a decision on how I was going to vote on the flag issue knowing that either way it was going to hurt someone I know and love as well as some folks I have never met.
I want to make it perfectly clear that to me, there is a big difference in hurting someone with a vote vs. making them angry at me. I do not like hurting anyone, ever, whether inadvertently or not. My intent when I ran for this office, which belongs to the people of District 53, was to help unite us, not divide us. I have always said not all folks may agree with me but I will not hide from a situation or try and scatter my vote for political gain.
I have not lost a minute of sleep over the other 500 or so votes I cast in Columbia during this session, but on this issue, I have lost sleep nightly for two weeks.
My ancestors have fought in nearly every American war. I have many great-grandfathers and even a great-great grandfather who fought in the deadliest war in American history, the War Between the States, and almost all of them came from Chesterfield County and District 53.
Two of those men didn’t come home alive and one never made it home at all. His monument is located at Douglas Mill Baptist Church Cemetery. Our family has also lost ancestors in other wars. I honor those men and their close family members now and forever.
I have been in daily prayer concerning this issue. In talking with friends and constituents on both sides of this, most of them directed me to pray for divine guidance and then to do what I felt was right, what I felt led to do. I have prayed with many pastors and prayer warriors and they have prayed with others. I am grateful for their prayers and I am grateful to anyone who has prayed over this issue for and/or with me.
I also read scripture and it certainly helped. The following from Romans helped in particular. Romans14:12-13 (KJV): “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another anymore: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.”
I have never looked at the battle flag as racist or a flag of hate. I look at that flag as a reminder of the men and women who died fighting in America. I am very disappointed that hate groups have hijacked the flag and it has given me a heavy heart. In a day and time when we should all be working together as brothers and sisters in Christ, it is dividing us twofold.
It unfortunately has become a stumbling block to many good people who associate it with hate. I fought for good compromises that I felt would work for both sides of this issue. I fought to let the citizens of South Carolina have a say in this matter. We failed to garner enough votes to pass any of these amendments.
In the end, I voted the way, under the present circumstances, I felt was proper for the future of all citizens in District 53. My heart, my prayers and my scripture readings tell me this.
I voted to place the flag in the Confederate Relic Room. I voted to remove an unintended stumbling block. For those who my vote may cause hurt, I truly am deeply sorry and I ask you to reflect on what I have written here.
I would like to thank the Chesterfield County Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group I am a proud of, for educating so many people on their Confederate heritage. I would also like to thank the great folks in Charleston for showing America that the people of South Carolina can overcome any tragedy and do so without propagating hate and violence.
These great Christian folks have set the example of Christian forgiveness and of the races coming together instead of being torn apart. I will hold up the great citizens of District 53 as well as South Carolina, as true examples of what “can be” in America. United we stand and divided we fall.
We need to get united quickly if we want to have an America we all will recognize for our kids and grandkids. I plan on proudly standing with all my brother and sister citizens of District 53, South Carolina and America. I hope and pray that you all do too.
As always, I would like to offer my assistance in any matter I can help with. I work for all the residents of District 53 and I am here to serve you. Please contact my office by phone at 843-623-5001 or by mail at 200 W. Main St., Chesterfield, SC 29709. You can also reach me by email at Richardyow@schouse.gov.