Autumn is always a time of promises. Even this year. Even in Columbia.
As nature takes its annual hiatus, trading lush canopies and Hellish humidity for crispy days and trees sluggish and austere, we have the promise that, given time to rest and restore, the natural beauty that we love about the south will return, rich and rejuvenated, ready to follow the enduring design that results in change, growth and progress forward.
It’s a promise that has yet to be broken.
We need promises we can count on these days.
For more than six months now, most of us have done the right thing. Despite localized weirdness, like having small segments of the city reject CDC-recommended pandemic precautions to gather cheek to jowl in a basic bigot bar while the rest of the city fears them like they’re the walking dead, most of us have behaved ourselves. We’ve washed our hands and worn our masks and given up most of the events, occasions and surreptitious happenstances that give us joy.
We’ve done this for COVID, and we’ve done this for each other.
It’s time for promises to be kept.
Lord knows there are promises a plenty being tossed around these days. It’ is election season, after all.
Specific to South Carolina however, there are promises being offered we know will never be fulfilled.
Senator Lindsay Graham, who is running for re-election on a Pecksniffian platform, has built such a legacy of breaking promises that he doesn’t even try to bury the bodies anymore.
When it comes to Medicare and Social Security, for example, Graham famously said in July 2019 that these programs are “promises we can’t keep,” effectively informing the 1 million South Carolinians on Medicare, 96 percent of whom are seniors, that they are on their own. The only kind of security he offered was in the form of an almost 2 trillion dollar tax break for the bloated and entitled corporations to whom he is indebted.
And, of course, there’s his unabashed declaration of hypocrisy from a 2018 interview in The Atlantic, where he assured us, “I want you to use my words against me,” promising that if there is a Supreme Court opening in the “last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait ’til the next election” to confirm a new justice.
Another promise broken. Another invitation to lose faith that we can believe anything any political candidate says.
Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, on the other hand, is carefully building a career, and the legacy of responsibility that accompanies a carefully constructed career, based specifically on making promises he knows he can keep. And keeping them.
Unwilling to play the political pastime of pledge, feign and dodge, and having promised to give back to the Orangeburg community that raised him, Harrison returned to his roots after attending Yale undergrad to teach high school at the same school from which he graduated.
Born to a teenaged mom and raised by his grandparents in a mobile home where milk in his cereal was a luxury, Harrison vowed to provide permanent shelter for his family, buying them their own home when he finished Georgetown Law.
Intimately aware of the systemic obstacles facing an impoverished young Black person as they try to improve themselves and their communities through education and training, Harrison took a job as the COO of an organization called College Summit. Now called Peer Forward, since 1993 this NPO has helped more than 350,000 low-income youths find a way to go to college and ostensibly level their playing fields as they build their lives and the future of this country.
An aide to Congressman James Clyburn, Harrison returned to the party that mentored him becoming not only a role model, but the first African-American chair of the state Democratic Party from 2013 to 2017.
While little can be done to return the evil genie of COVID-19 to the bottle from which Trump and GOP leadership facilitated its release and circulation, Harrison told us in his debate with Graham on Oct. 3, “We need leaders who are going to step up and act,” and criticized Graham for opposing an extension of unemployment benefits for Americans who have lost their jobs to COVID-19.
“I will never, never, never, never lie to you,” Harrison promised. “I am not going to go back on my word.”
Based on his history of promises made and promises kept so far, I am inclined to believe this committed young candidate.
Graham doesn’t even ask us to anymore.
Cindi Boiter is a writer, editor and arts advocate. She is the founding editor of Jasper magazine and the Fall Lines literary journal and the executive director of The Jasper Project.