Ham spamming drags all South Carolinians through mud

Hunter Deas, Copy Editor

South Carolina made it into the news around the state and around the country – again. Somehow, it can’t seem to manage making the news for a positive contribution. This time, the city of Florence brought the Palmetto State back into the spotlight for another cultural mugshot.

During the night of Sunday, Oct. 10, some person or persons visited the Florence Islamic Center, a place of worship for the Pee Dee region’s Islamic community. The visit was hardly one of good intentions, though perhaps the visitor(s) would argue otherwise. There was at least one very clear intention – to attack the center and its members because they are Muslim.

The attack was not violent; no one was harmed. Indeed, no one other than the perpetrator(s) was present, aside from, perhaps, any silent witnesses. To voice what must ultimately be called anti-Islamic hatred, the unknown party left a message – spelled in letters made from a gratuitous amount of bacon (made, of course, from pork, which is an unclean and prohibited food for Muslims) – on the center’s walkway. The message: “pig chump.”

S.C. has a long history of generating controversy, from the state’s declaration of secession and the firing on Fort Sumter, to, much more recently, Governor Sanford’s “Appalachian trip” to Argentina; not to mention the state challenging the constitutional grounds for passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 or the controversy a decade ago over the Confederate battle flag. South Carolina was the focus of debate during President Obama’s campaign when he visited the “corridor of shame” – a geographical zone that is home to impoverished and under-achieving schools.

The state has become the subject of ridicule on the political satire program “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” and has been highlighted as a state of ignorance, with Democrat senatorial candidate Alvin Greene as its poster child; never mind the allegations of Greene distributing pornography among college students. Is part of a South Carolinian heritage the need to be provincial and prejudiced, to take a pejorative stance against religious and ethnic minorities, or to the urge to display ignorance and hatred?

But I digress; the matter at hand, this time, is the vandalism of an Islamic center of worship, and its reflection on South Carolina. Whether every South Carolinian is or is not a provincial, or narrow-minded, racist, prejudiced, hate-filled, ignorant radical bent on riding a bandwagon of hellfire and brimstone to damn the wicked, the different, the minority, the poor, “outsiders” and progress in general is beside the point.

That reputation is nonetheless one that some people, a few people, have given to many people, to the whole of South Carolina; and why should anyone elsewhere in the country believe that South Carolina does not deserve its negative reputation? Florence did not make the news because of any involvement with a charity, or because one of its citizens won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but because bacon was used to spell out “pig chump” outside a local Islamic worship center.

What does “pig chump” even mean? Surely, whoever wrote the words did not have in mind to address the state’s reputation for ignorance. The vandal(s) clearly had in mind to insult the Muslims who attend the center, and the Islamic community. Also insulted was the South Carolina population – or at least those of the population who do not want to be slapped with the label of being ignorant, racist, hateful, offensive and, in this case, anti-Muslim.

Too often I have felt the need to introduce myself as being from South Carolina, only to follow that up with a disclaimer, or a defense against the accusing raised eyebrow directed at me. I will retain some optimism as I struggle to justify any manner of pride in my home state, South Carolina, and say that I believe the state’s negative and shameful reputation is reflective of a minority of its citizens. I count myself as proof, as one among others who respect the Constitutional right of all Americans to believe in and practice whatever faith they choose. I would like to count myself among an increasing number of people who not only disagree with unflattering and unethical actions such as the ham spamming of the Florence Islamic Center, but who make themselves heard. If the strongest voice is only that of a minority, then the rest of South Carolina will continue to suffer an unjust stereotype.

Everyone who disagrees with the idea that South Carolina is as pitiful, embarrassing and backwards as its reputation claims, everyone who is offended by being stereotyped as a racist, fanatical, discriminating, apathetic, uneducated, offensive bumpkin and a joke should be proactive in disproving the stereotype. Never mind whether the stereotype may or may not be true – it doesn’t have to be.

Speak up. Prove the stereotype wrong. Don’t be the brunt of a tasteless and embarrassing joke. I, at least, will not sit quietly on the sidelines and condone the stigma that has dragged the state and its citizens through the mud, and no one else has to – no one should.