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Stepping into the light is painful when darkness is your friend

A Column by the Editor
web posted April 9, 2010
COLUMN – Economic Development Partnership’s Fred Humes made a statement more than once that just did not seem to register with the tenured members of the Edgefield County Council. One of the issues causing industry leaders to turn away from a county is the “quality of elected officials”. He mentioned once that the industry leaders reading media accounts about how the elected leaders govern is also a factor. Of course, to those same members, that meant Edgefield Daily was to blame for all of our problems.

Yes, in that single statement they discovered the reason Edgefield County has lagged behind other counties in the state for the last two decades, Edgefield Daily. Oddly enough, Edgefield Daily has only been around for a little over five years but has hampered our county from growing for twenty.

I took a far different understanding of Mr. Humes’ remarks.  He was explaining why the county is paying for his services, that any industry looking at Aiken County also looks at Edgefield County, and the industry is just not locating here.

It seemed, in my opinion, like a nice way of him saying, “don’t blame me, it’s your fault because you are dysfunctional.”

Maybe I’m reading more into his words. But why else would he bring up the issue of the “quality of elected officials” repeatedly?

I’ve said that for years.

Any successful business or industry leader that sat through a county council meeting would walk out and never return because of the regular embarrassing outbursts and illogical reasoning the majority uses to do the illogical. Citizens attending the meetings often roll their eyes, shake their heads in disbelief of what they are witnessing, and have been openly mocked for doing so during the meetings by council members.

However, according to the majority and the inside political class, accurately reporting the content, quotes, actions, and decisions of the meetings is “negative reporting”.

Truth is now classified as “being negative” and the person telling it is the enemy.

Forget the failed policies over the past twenty years. Forget who has been in control the last twenty years. Forget that the agenda has not changed in twenty years. Forget that the same “political class” has influenced and controlled the agenda from the sidelines.

Forget all of that.

Blame me because I walked in the room over five years ago while most of the county was stumbling around in the dark and turned on the light.

Doing so has been painful.

In 1998 I was blinded in one eye in a freak accident. At the time, and following the subsequent surgeries, I was blinded totally though I still had one functioning eye. I was in the dark. I could only hear, smell, and touch the world around me.

I still had the ability to function within limitations. But the world around me was a vast expanse of darkness.

Once I was released from the hospital and returned home, my world had to remain dark even though I had regained my vision in my one remaining eye. Blinds were kept shut, lights were turned off, and sunglasses were still required inside because I had adjusted to a world without the lights on. 

If I was sitting in a room and someone entered and, out of normal reflex, turned on the lights it was painful to me because I was not accustomed to seeing the world around me with the lights on. It took a long time to readjust from darkness to dim lights in a room to brighter lights and even longer to adjust to the light of a wonderful spring day.

But in time I came to appreciate the light and to bathe in the clarity it provided in my vision and the ability to see again.

That is what I believe happened to Edgefield County in a general sense. For twenty years the same people have been in control of not only the political power in the county but also the media, with one political insider even buying one of the local print media to control the content disseminated to the public for a long period of that time.

Residents were basically feeling helpless, much as I did when I was blinded, and adjusted to the darkness. And rather than slowly opening the blinds and venturing into the light, they felt comfortable remaining in the dark. Trust me; it was far more comfortable to stay there myself, as light was my enemy.

It caused pain, discomfort, headaches, and at times forced me to recoil.

In the past five years the people of Edgefield County have begun to open the blinds, change out the low wattage bulbs for brighter ones, and are stepping into the sunlight with sunglasses.

Yes, it has been a painful process for all of us - the political class, the media, and the regular citizens alike.

There have been more candidates seeking office against the tenured elected officials in the past two elections than there have been in the last two decades combined.

The “Sunshine” laws have taken their rightful place. Government transparency is not only expected but also demanded. The general public is now able to see the world around them, navigate through it, and change the obstacles that have prevented us from advancing out of our dark age. 

We have walked out of the comfort of our darkened home already. Now let us remove the hat that shields us from the sunlight and then remove the shades that cover our eyes and bask in the beauty of truth in God’s sunlight.

Yes, it has been a painful process. But it is well worth it and we will be better off because of it.

I will never forget the day that I walked outside of our dimly lit home, removed the hat, removed the sunglasses, and proclaimed, “Thank God I can see again!”

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