Florida: The Worst State?

Yes, we're a mess. But we're not alone.

Weird Florida. WTF Florida? FloriDUH. Oh, #Florida!

The joke is getting old.

It’s not so much that the stories of Floridian stupidity on every other blog and newscast have stopped being funny. We can still take a perverse sense of pride in how deep a well of weirdness we live in.

It’s just that, after a week like this one, the punchlines sound less like jokes than calls to action.

Take John Oliver’s parting shot in his brilliant Daily Show takedown of the George Zimmerman acquittal:

“Has it ever occurred to anyone when visiting Orlando that when Mickey Mouse is waving at you, what he’s actually trying to say is, ‘Please! Someone get me the fuck out of here! These people are fucking crazy!’”

Well, yeah, now it has.

Like many Florida transplants, I have numerous friends who regularly trash my adopted state on Facebook. But it’s not just yankees; Floridians are throwing up their hands, too.

Florida tends to provoke rhetorical questions. For instance:

Why would African Americans want to live in a state that acquits the killer of an unarmed black teenager — a state that is also trying to make it harder for minorities to vote?

Why would married gay couples want to live in a state that doesn’t recognize their marriage?

Why would anyone want to live in a state where huge sums in federal aid for the poor and mass transit are rejected just to appease the Tea Party?

And why would anyone feel safe on the streets in a state that passes a Stand Your Ground law?

Why indeed.

But what’s the alternative? Wave our hands like Mickey and say, “Get me the fuck out of here?”

I can’t say that option hasn’t occurred to me and my husband. It would be nice, we think sometimes, to live in a state we don’t have to apologize for.

Trouble is, the U.S. is full of Floridas.

Thirty-one states have introduced restrictive voting bills.

Twenty-nine states have a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Fourteen states are rejecting or likely to reject funds for Medicaid expansion.

Thirty-one states have versions of a Stand Your Ground law on the books, allowing the same dangerous gray area in determining when deadly force is permissible in self-defense.

But none of those states has what Florida has — the mix of tropical languor and feisty independence that drives some of the craziness, but also powers progress. It’s the sprit that informs the diverse urban neighborhoods we write about every week in CL, that fosters vital, committed activists and artists like Ayele Hunt and Chad Mize and David Jenkins and Nadine Smith — people who know that the battles need to be fought where the victories are needed most.

People who could maybe help erase, or at least reduce, the DUH in FloriDUH, because they’re willing to fight those fights.

We hear you, Mickey.

But we’re not ready to leave yet.

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