Boyette has come home to Aiken Standard 1

John Boyette

One of the great things about Facebook is that it constantly reminds you of old posts and photos.

For the past few days I’ve been enjoying the reminders on my account of a special trip that I took with my wife and two of her childhood friends in 2015.

To celebrate my pending 50th birthday that year, I wanted to go to St. Andrews for the British Open. Then the ladies got involved and it became a truly special trip.

We started in London and saw the sights there: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, Tower Bridge and, of course, Harrods. We also squeezed in a day trip to Wimbledon. We didn’t make it to Centre Court, but we found out why so many people compare it to Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament.

We traveled on “the tube” – yes, we minded the gap – and the famous double decker buses. Mostly, we did a lot of walking.

Then we were off to Scotland. While I indulged myself at the home of golf, the ladies took some side trips to see the beauty of the Scottish countryside.

The Open Championship experience was quite amazing. The Old Course is truly a marvel, and we got to see five-time winner Tom Watson play in his final Open that year. The tournament was delayed by wind and finished on Monday, but we got to see Zach Johnson win golf’s oldest event in a playoff.

Each day we enjoyed having some ice cream, and the ladies enjoyed the discovery of adding “flake” to their dairy treat. Flake is essentially a chocolate wafer; trust me, it’s good when dipped in ice cream.

While we were enjoying ourselves overseas, not all was well back home. A few weeks before we left, South Carolina was rocked by the horrific killings of nine Black church members at Emanuel AME in Charleston.

To our state’s credit, no major riots or violent outbursts followed those killings. But then-Gov. Nikki Haley did seize the opportunity to successfully lobby for the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds in Columbia.

The flag came down while we were out of the country. I honestly don’t remember much about it, although I’m sure I followed the news. But last week, as we covered the five-year anniversary of its removal, I looked back on some of the previous stories. Thousands of people descended on Columbia for the day – July 10, 2015 – it came down.

The Confederate flag has long been a political football. Some people see it as a symbol of heritage. Others view it as a tool of hate.

Me? I’ve never been much of a Civil War buff, nor did I get caught up in the debate over the flag. When people are passionate about something, it’s hard to change their point of view. Has anyone been swayed by a stranger’s argument on social media? I doubt it.

A former colleague liked to say that people rarely change, and he is right. Change on the Confederate flag and monuments has been slow to come, and some will never change their way of thinking.

Although the Civil War formally began at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, I find it interesting that relatively few major battles were fought in this state. The Battle of Aiken, which occurred a couple of months before the end of the war, is often described as a minor skirmish between cavalry forces. The Confederates won that battle but, ultimately, lost the war.

The Confederate flag that flew at the Statehouse is now displayed in the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia.

Now, with the recent deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, the push for racial justice and the targeting of Confederate monuments and statues, it seems we have traveled back to 2015 again.

In some ways, I wouldn’t mind that. I would love to go back to London and Scotland. Heck, I would love to be able to visit one of South Carolina’s beaches, but that’s not going to happen until we’re out of the woods on COVID-19. All we can do is hope to learn from these events.

Maybe in five years we will have put the lessons of 2015, and 2020, to good use.

Thanks for reading.

John Boyette is executive editor of the Aiken Standard. Reach him at jboyette@aikenstandard.com or 803-644-2364.