US & World

Guest Column: What The Hell Happened To Us?

Foundational ideals … foundering implementation.

by JORDANA MEGONIGAL

What — and I say this with as much respect as I can muster — the hell happened to us?

Less than 250 years ago, a group of men got together to initiate and ratify the foundational governing document of our nation — the Constitution. Contrary to what GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy claims, this was not “what won us the American Revolution” — but it is still worthy of note these many years past.

That document, ratified five years after the American Revolution ended, laid out some complex ideas in a simple vision: 

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

See, these men had a dream for perfection. For justice. For peace amongst the citizenry. That dream included defending individual rights and ensuring the “general welfare” of all — which, while undetermined, could be assumed to refer to that whole “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” thing from that other text. Those men established this country on the foundation that its people would be free, just, peaceful and taken care of.

So, I say again: What the hell happened? 

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Far from mere political differences or shades of gray in differing opinions, our nation is almost none of the above anymore. The American dream is shattered; housing is unattainable, medical care is costly and money is hard to come by and harder to keep – not to mention constantly losing its value. And putting aside the fact that those founding fathers really only intended these “inalienable” graces to apply to other, property-owning white men, we have to take a hard look at ourselves if we hope to see again some semblance of what we once were.  

South Carolina, for example, remains strong with property-owning men calling the rules. You only need to look at this week’s abortion ruling, in which the S.C. supreme court — comprised entirely of men — upheld legislation that was overwhelmingly steamrolled into existence by other men, even against the challenges brought up by a bipartisan collective of women legislators.

And whether you agree with the final verdict in the text or not, the principle of the matter continually chafes: women’s issues are still primarily governed by men. The founding idea of “representation” has long been out of sync with reality, but we are reminded of it anew in times like these when other voices — even when heard — aren’t listened to.

Justice? Well, in South Carolina we’ve seen pretty clearly over the past few months how lacking that is — where those with power and money skate over the waves of chaos they leave in their wake. From judges to prosecutors and fiduciary presidents, we’ve seen it play out on the live stage. Hold a mere ounce of marijuana in your hand and South Carolina will give you five years (on average) for a first-offense for possession.  But use your power and influence to cover up murder, embezzlement and theft of millions of dollars from those in a lower tax bracket? Well, unless there’s a dogged journalist on your tail, you probably won’t even miss dinner at the club.

While we’re talking about the Fourth Estate, in what universe do we think our founding fathers would have been okay with legislation as was proposed earlier this year under Ron DeSantis — legislation that barely even made a media blip — in which press freedoms as covered under that pesky First Amendment (in New York Times v. Sullivan, 1964) would be effectively rolled back if media had the gall to (gasp!) call out a politician for their conduct?

After all, we don’t really need the press as a checkpoint anymore ... do we? Not when our elected leaders are so forthright and beyond reproach.

I won’t even touch on the disillusion of having peace amongst our fellow citizens right now — I’m not sure any of us have experienced peace and true civility as a nation in decades, and the fact that this column alone will likely have me fielding accusations of being both a liberal elitist and a backwoods deplorable — at the same time — proves it.

And finally, the idea of general welfare is absurd.

In a state where almost fifteen percent of the population lives in poverty ($30,000 for a family of four), our largest companies in the state — many of which our tax dollars heavily subsidized, by the way — pay most of their workforce only slightly more than that each year. Small businesses are continually crushed by an overwhelming tax burden, even though they comprise around 99 percent of all of S.C. businesses, as outlined by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Healthcare is dismal; education is laughable; we don’t value childcare; we don’t value infrastructure (unless it’s to attract more big headquarters), and we consistently live up to our rankings among other states — this year in the bottom four in the nation.

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Yet time after time our politicians stand up and talk about how great it is here. How everyone wants to be here. How everyone is watching South Carolina as a shining beacon of freedom and livelihood. Apparently, we’re the “Beast of the East,” as former governor Nikki Haley recently decided to call us. And I’ve done it myself — as a former media publisher I’ve jumped on party lines and touted new acquisitions and dissected good and bad legislation. I’ve pushed tourism and celebrated how everyone was moving to the state. I’ve done it, and I will continue to love and celebrate this state, no matter how broken it may be.

Because the truth is — as it always is — somewhere in between. South Carolina has so much to celebrate that it’s unbearable to see it constantly fail in so many spaces. It’s similar a your child coming back from school with a D, when you know they have A+ potential.  Somewhere, deep down, you know that they squandering their opportunity. 

I’m a Southerner and a South Carolinian. I know as well as anyone the fierceness that comes along with that. I understand clearly our historical makeup as independent and longing to be free from governmental overreach. I love our hills and mountains and beaches and people. I know our business market is incredibly strong and makes people look twice at this small state on the East Coast. I know that South Carolina is ripe for innovation and brilliance and world-changing opportunity.

But I also see our faults — and where we need to fervently come back to the Constitutionalism that this country was founded on to find our footing once again. 

We have the potential for so much more, South Carolina. And we are squandering it. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR ...

Jordana Megonigal is a politically homeless former journalist, three-time business owner, wife of one and mother of three residing in Upstate South Carolina.

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10 comments

Oh pleassse August 25, 2023 at 8:21 am

So after a quick dive into this article I can surmise the writer is just another angry female millennial who has all the answer and blames it on old white men.. You seem clueless when it comes to life and having lived in much better times. It’s not the rule by men but the feeling that anyone anywhere can live as they please without rules, without laws, without responsibility. General welfare eludes to that of the nation, collectively, not your individual ability to buy a home or health care. Anyone can choose a better diet which most agree gives better health, housing can be obtained but most want the bigger shitshow and tell. I will give you this what the hell happened, you’re right. For your answer listen carefully to Rich Men North of Richmond. Everyone wants what they want without working for it or being responsible for their decisions. We elect politicians on the promise of what goodies they can give rather than how they can protect our nation. That’s what the hell happened.Actually just the tip of the iceberg but Ill stop there….smh

Reply
megworksllc Top fan August 25, 2023 at 10:05 am

As you’re wrong in many of your assumptions, I’d suggest a deeper read rather than a “quick dive.” Female? Yes. Millennial? No. Angry? Damn right. Because you’re right, we elect idiots who only want to pad their pockets and implement pet projects, while the general public is left to the scraps. And we’ve done it long enough that it’s shifted our culture away from an American dream and into a hole that you’re lucky if you can get out of. And to your point about general welfare, yes, you’re correct in that as well—and in the US our GENERAL welfare looks like 54% of the populace who can’t read beyond a 6th grade level; almost 12% in poverty; and 44% struggle to pay for basic healthcare (and as much as a better diet is great, it’s not always feasible in our MANY food deserts, and it won’t take the place of chemo or radiation for the almost 2 million people a year who will get a cancer diagnosis). And in regards to who is in charge—GENERALLY, only 28% of Congress is female and only about a quarter isn’t white, so who is ruling? Why tout “Rich Men in Richmond” but when a woman calls out the same exact people that song refers do you have an issue?

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another one? August 25, 2023 at 10:51 am

Another let’s blame white men bleeding heart. Years ago men worked to get where they were regardless of color. They had integrity and morals. Now after years of feminism and blaming toxic masculinity, which is responsible for all civilization btw, women want to rule the world. We have given up. We are letting you rule. See the fn mess you’re creating? Liberalism is a mental disorder, so is feminism. Yes Im all over the map because there is so much that is wrong. But the constant shriek of all the white mans fault is really getting old. Blame the single parent households, blame the lack of morality, blame the uncontrolled pursuit of wealth at all costs. Blame the democrat push for a welfare nation. Too many problems now to count or fix. America ain’t coming back and that was by design. But by all means lets keep blaming white men. better start looking in a mirror…..

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What a Joke August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

“We are letting you rule.”

You’re a clown, dude. You’re used to seeing mediocre half-solutions that Democrats propose get torpedoed in Congress on the daily and you think you live under communism? Please, by all means, step out of the way and let the adults manage the country if you’ve truly given up. Put up or shut up. Otherwise, keep honking your nose for our entertainment.

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Thomas Mullins Top fan August 25, 2023 at 10:52 am

If your child comes home with a D and has A+ potential, I don’t think the school or education system is the problem. And trust me I have plenty of problems with the school and educational system.

Reply
jm Top fan August 25, 2023 at 11:31 am

Exactly the point.

Reply
Your ideas August 25, 2023 at 9:29 pm

“ we need to fervently come back to the Constitutionalism that this country was founded on to find our footing once again.

Yes Mama, you need to STFU then.

The founding fathers did not want women voting or having a say in political decisions. So, follow your own advice and shut up.

Reply
lol August 25, 2023 at 9:32 pm

Don’t forget slavery!

The founding fathers were all slave owning/banging.

The blogger should stick to goofy selfies. Know your lane.

Reply
tbrewer1 Top fan August 26, 2023 at 7:58 am

More liberal complainers.. but never offer a solution

Reply
William August 29, 2023 at 3:33 pm

We try to offer solutions all the time, but right-wing nuts refuse to listen. So here we go again.

1. Return Tax rates to where they were under Bill Clinton when we had both a booming economy and the only annual deficit surplus in the last 50 years. The GOP has slashed tax rates to the point most billionaires pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than a person making under 100K a year; and many giant multinational corporations pay no taxes at all.

2. Pass laws to overrule Citizens United, get dark money out of politics; and pass meaningful campaign finance reform that requires documentation of who is contributing money to politicians and limits how much can be contributed; and public notification if a donor has business before a politician to whom he is giving money. There should be no political contributions allowed by government contractors, such as defense contractors, period.

3. Fully fund Social Security and Medicare.

4. Lower the cost of Medicare by allowing anyone who wants to join the program join. This will bring younger healthier people into the system and lower the overall cost per participant. This will also eliminate the need for the Affordable Care Act as people can choose between private insurance and Medicare.

5. Allow Medicare to negotiate drug costs the way the VA does for veterans. This will further reduce the cost of Medicare.

6. Return to funding higher education. From 1950 through 1990 states paid approximately 80% of the budget for operating public colleges and universities. This allowed working parents to afford to educate their children. Now the states pay about 15% of the cost of operating state-supported colleges and Universities. This has sent the cost of college through the roof and beyond the reach of the average family; which in turn has caused a student loan crisis.

7. Reinstate the fairness doctrine that required all TV and Radio Networks to provide equal time to both sides of political thought. This would eliminate Networks that lie for politicians.

8. Require the President his cabinet and his political appointees; Senators, Representatives, and Federal Judges to only invest money through a publicly controlled blind trust that invests in stock index funds, like the S&P 500. Require all Government employees to publicly disclose all gifts of more than $1000 in value from anyone other than their family, and all business transactions while they are in office. If they don’t want to do that, they don’t need to be in office. Politics has to stop being a business.

9. Make it a crime for an elected official to knowingly lie to the public.

There that is a start. We have offered a lot more, but corrupt Republicans have no desire to end the corruption. Taking bribes has become a way of life.

Reply

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