I am sure that the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy was not thinking about South Carolina when he quoted Gen. Kutuzov in his book War and Peace: “Patience and time. Time and patience.”
But these words of wisdom seem to make a lot of sense for us as South Carolinians – both old and new – as we continue to try and live and work together amicably in this weird and wonderful place we call home.
Our state is changing and we must all work together to understand and harness these changes for the benefit of all of us. And a little time and patience — from both new and old South Carolinians — will make things go a lot smoother and work out best for all of us 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 that have ”come here.” When my people, Scotch-Irish settlers, first came down through the Shenandoah Valley and moved into the wilds of what is now upstate South Carolina in the 1760’s, 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 not had a great deal of flux in our population. With the exception of the Great Migration of African Americans to the North that began after the Civil War and continued until the middle of the 20th century, our population was very stable. As late as the 1970’s, South Carolina had a higher percentage of its population that were native born than practically any other state.
But in recent years, all this has begun to change; we now have one of the highest growth rates of in-migration in the country. Two distinct groups have moved into our state. The first are 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 life style — wonderful weather, beautiful natural environment, friendly people and relatively low taxes.
The second group is largely African American, both young and old. No one knows exactly how many black South Carolinians left for the North during the Great Migration, perhaps over a million. However, since the 1970’s, this migration trend has reversed; the Great Migration’s 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” is not always smooth. New South Carolinians get frustrated with our slow ways, our lack of openness and our seeming inability to move beyond the legacy of the Civil War era. Native South Carolinians get tired of hearing ”how they do it up North” from folks that seem to always look down their nose on us. It’s the same for both black and white.
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 over ten 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,” but 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 just that question. “Never in a million years.”
Over the years, I have tried to patiently listen to his ranting and raving about ”you people” 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 have been very fortunate to travel the world in my business and I have seen regions and countries that are growing and thriving in the fast changing world of the 21st century — and others that are falling further and further behind. The one thing that the success stories have in common is that they are open to new ideas, new people and new ways of looking at the world.
South Carolina 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, learn from each other and most of all be understanding and patient with each other.
General Mikhail Kutuzov was a real person, a heroic and successful general in numerous wars of imperial Russia. When the Soviets toppled the imperial Tsar and took power, they recognized the value of the great wisdom of Kutuzov and during World War ll they named their highest military award in his honor, the Order of Kutuzov. And 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 Russian through its many wars and revolutions, it’s probably a pretty good guide for us as we struggle with the battle of New vs. Old South Carolinians.
Time and patience. Patience and time.
— Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and President of the South Carolina New Democrats, an independent reform group started by former Gov. Richard Riley to bring big change and real reform to politics and government.