I probably don't have to tell you that South Carolina faces huge challenges - chief among the economic recession, rising unemployment and deep government budget cuts brought about by reduced revenue collections.
It's been noted many times that if there's a silver lining to this crisis, perhaps it's in rediscovering the common sense notion of living within our means...the idea of setting priorities, holding some functions of government higher than others, and eliminating spending that's not essential to improving the lives of South Carolinians.
But I'd like to make the point that there's another silver lining -- a unique opportunity to rethink the unfortunate way we've come to debate important issues. It's truly a shame that what should be reasoned discussion on political issues has too often been replaced by insulting "attack politics."
Sadly, some people will seek any tool to advance a political cause -- even if it means crawling into the gutter to do so. That practice takes a heavy toll on society.
As state and national leaders grapple with the greatest economic crisis in a generation, we'd do well to lay aside the "villains-versus-heroes" mentality, the attitude that it's OK to launch a personal attack on a fellow human being simply for holding different public policy or political views. Our state and national leaders would best serve us all by laying down their arms and being more civil toward one another while debating issues.
Of course, they should stand on principle. They should fight for their beliefs. But they should also take the time to listen to and consider those with differing views - and be polite to those views and to those who hold them. Our differences of opinion certainly pale in comparison to the common bond we share in our desire to move our state and nation forward.
Even in more normal times our state faces more than its share of hurdles. We must find ways to improve education, improve public safety and reduce our tax burden. And now we've got the added challenge of improving the health of our economy and getting South Carolinians working again.
A good first step toward meeting these challenges would be to have an honest, civil conversation about where we're headed and where we want to head as a state and a nation - minus the political attacks that detract us from our most noble goal of improving the quality of life for ourselves and for future generations.
Richard Eckstrom is S.C. comptroller general. He can be reached through his staff by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.