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Thursday, 20 June 2019 20:03

Confessions of an Old Fart

Written by  Bob Serody

When I came to Florida on a job transfer in 1989, I should have realized then that this state was far from normal. That first week, when the pipes in the house I rented froze, I thought at first that I had driven with my belongings from Massachusetts to Florida with a defective compass. Thankfully, it was only a very exceptional cold spell, and the climate returned to normal after a few days.

Looking for books to read, I found wacky crime novels by Carl Hiassen, the Miami Herald columnist, who wrote fiction about Floridians conning other Floridians with all kinds of schemes. According to Hiassen, many of the story lines in his novels eventually came true. I also recently picked up a good book entitled “Oh Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country”, by Craig Pittman. According to Pittman, we are regularly ranked as the top state with the following crimes: mortgage fraud, tax fraud, identity theft fraud, and pill pushing, to mention a few. There is also a ‘hotbed’ of flat butt enhancers. I’m tempted to look into the butt enhancers. Then there are the robo-calls tying up our phones with requests for our credit card numbers or telling us we need more health insurance. It appears that my only alternatives are to either discontinue phone service or change the phone number on a weekly basis.

I’ve suspected for some time that the winter weather, the lower cost of living, and the many available retirement communities have a strong attraction for both working and retired people, who think of this state as one huge Disney World of fun and pleasure. Where else would we want to fritter away our remaining time on Earth, such as by playing golf or wrestling with alligators? That is partly why Florida attracts people with such varying backgrounds and beliefs. Even President Trump is a part-timer at Mar-a-lago.

As the third most populous state, Florida has 29 votes in the Electoral College. This motley crew of Floridians could actually decide our next president - again. Florida provided the most candidates for the Republican nomination in 2016. There was Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee. When looking at the current list of Democratic candidates in a current field of 24, there is only one person who can claim he is from Florida. His name is Wayne Messam, Mayor of Miramar, Florida. I for one never heard of him. That comparison would make us believe that Florida is a red state. But how Florida swings blue or red usually depends on the number of lower income residents who take their civic duties seriously - by registering and showing up to vote. Even more important, there is now Amendment 4.

In a key ballot initiative known as Amendment 4, Florida will restore voting rights to citizens convicted of certain felonies (the exceptions are murder and rape) after they have served their sentences, including prison terms, parole and probationary periods. Approximately 1.5 million people are currently barred in the state because of a past felony conviction — a figure representing about 10 percent of Florida's adult population. The current system significantly affects African-Americans in the state: more than 20 percent of otherwise eligible African-American adults are unable to vote under this process. The ballot initiative for Amendment 4 to Florida's Constitution could significantly affect future elections in the swing state, which has been known for its very tight voting outcomes. Remember George W. Bush vs. Al Gore? If Amendment 4 becomes law without alteration by the Republican controlled houses in Tallahassee prior to the 2020 elections, it could determine who becomes president.

Florida is also known for its Stand Your Ground Law. It states that if you feel threatened, you have a right to defend yourself using as much lethal force as you believe necessary, which leaves a lot up to interpretation. It definitely doesn’t give permission to include shootouts with law enforcement. We all know that Florida, which lacks effective gun control legislation, has invited plenty of violence, whether it is a domestic dispute or the Parkland High School massacre. We just have to apply a little common sense and realize that unless we keep guns away from the hands of angry Floridians with a score to settle, we will continue to have one catastrophe after another.

We can’t forget that Florida is the country’s premier launch platform into space, which sends giant rockets and their crews into low earth orbit, to the Moon, and someday to the planet Mars from Cape Canaveral. French science fiction author Jules Verne wasn’t far off when his 1865 science fiction novel, From the Earth to the Moon, launched a manned rocket from the Tampa area of Florida to the moon. It tells the story of the Baltimore Gun Club, a post-American Civil War society of weapons enthusiasts, and their attempts to build an enormous space cannon for launching three people to the Moon. However, this scenario turned out to be impractical for safe space travel, since a much longer barrel would have been required to reach escape velocity while limiting acceleration to survivable limits. As you can probably tell, I’m a science fiction nut.

Looking back on my 30 years as a Florida resident, did I ever regret my move to this topsy-turvy state with such a weird variety of people? No, I still don’t have any regrets. Florida is a naturally beautiful state, at least those parts not overrun by condos and houses. I have friends who believe in peaceful pursuits, I teach mathematics at the college level to promote education, I am a progressive, and the weather eliminates a need for the snow blower I left behind in Massachusetts. There is a personal feeling of excitement that comes from my engaging in Florida politics, where I’ve actively supported candidates who share my beliefs. Should we prevent sea level rise by taking climate change seriously, keep Florida beautiful, and show that we care enough to provide a decent minimum wage, equal access to health care and education for all Floridians? You decide.

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 Bob Serody is a member of Space Coast Progressive Alliance.

*ED. NOTE: The views expressed here are solely those of the author. SCPA does not endorse candidates and welcomes commentary on a wide range of issues, including political campaigns, local, regional and national. If interested in contributing commentary, please contact SCPA.

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 20 June 2019 21:49
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