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The State You're In: Sirens and sex appeal; child safety; Philip Caputo's 'The Longest Road'

Time capsule

Clearwater, August 1943

It's August, the dog days of summer, and some things will never change. The heat is intolerable and let's not even talk about the humidity. But kids will always find a way to have fun, like these boys at Camp Soule, the Boy Scout camp in Clearwater. They found something to do on Lake Chatauqua, though we're not exactly sure what, or if their canoe instructor was giving them pointers or marking down demerits. Seventy years later, kids are still roughing it at Camp Soule (though pretty much everything has been updated since then). The 49-acre camp is used year-round for children from elementary to high school age, plus leadership training for adults. There's a swimming pool now, so they don't swim in the lake, but they do still canoe and rowboat. No word on whether they still poke each other with 10-foot poles.

So they say

Sirens and sex appeal

We can probably blame this all on Trident sugarless gum, which in the 1960s sought to support its claim to superiority by rounding up a bunch of people who would vouch for them. "Four out of five dentists recommend …" Never you mind what that fifth guy was thinking. Now everyone with something to prove conducts a survey, random sampling be damned.

Now an online dating service is trotting out 1,000 people to tell us something drivers with lead feet probably already know. — "For singles in uniform and those who like them" — found that 7.72 percent think the Florida Highway Patrol has the sexiest uniforms (coming in fourth behind California, Texas and New York).

"We think it's only right that the law enforcement of the Sunshine Sate should be decked out in such warm, earthy tones. … The uniform is classic and smart — surely qualities anyone would appreciate in a future partner," says.

But, 7.72 percent of a thousand is … 77.2 people. Who's the lowly two-tenths of a person?

Big numbers

They are the innocent among us, our future, our kids. As parents, neighbors, people, we all have a part in keeping them safe. Kidnapping is the big bugaboo. But are we taking our eye off the ball? In 2011, only eight kids in Florida were victims of non-family abductions. Meanwhile, nearly 10 times that number of children ages 1-4 died in frighteningly mundane ways:

64: by drowning

15: car crash (includes six pedestrians)

3: firearm related

Source: Florida Department of Health Injury Prevention Program, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Numbers are for 2011, the latest year for which statistics are available.


A cross country cross-check

In his new travelogue, The Longest Road (Henry Holt and Company), Pulitzer-winning author Philip Caputo drives a mostly diagonal route from Key West to Deadhorse, Alaska, looking for a core sample of Americans' attitudes about their country. Joined by his wife, Leslie Ware, and two English setters, Sage and Sky, inside a 1962 Airstream trailer, Caputo set out with a single deeply ambivalent question to ask of the people he would meet along the way: What holds us together? In Tallahassee, with help from his son Marc, a politics reporter for the Miami Herald, the elder Caputo sits down in 2011 with then-Speaker of the Florida House Dean Cannon. Cannon waxed academically about the "yearning in the human soul to be free," about a "group of brave, original thinkers" and a "country rich beyond compare."

There wasn't a word I disagreed with. But, I asked, if we had this wonderful system, why were so many people up in arms? Tea Partiers calling for secession, mainstream politicians hinting that armed revolt might be a viable option?

"You've got to distinguish (Cannon said). There are some Tea Party people who are angry social misfits, they're just crazy jerks. But I think the vast majority of Tea Party people I've spoken to aren't so much angry as they're afraid — afraid of the country, for the first time in its existence, losing sight of the fact that liberty and personal freedoms are the primary characteristics distinguishing us from every other country in the free world. The gravest threat to liberty is too strong a central government."

There I did partially disagree. As Justice Louis Brandeis said, we could have democracy in this country or we could have great wealth in the hands of the few, but we couldn't have both. Bigness was the gravest threat to liberty: big banks and big corporations in alliance with big government — an oligarchy, a corporatarchy, a plutocracy, call it anything you like. Maybe what had everybody, left, right and center, so upset was the recognition that we were the suckers in a game of Texas hold 'em rigged by the Wall Street and K Street sharpies.

The State You're In: Sirens and sex appeal; child safety; Philip Caputo's 'The Longest Road' 07/31/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 2:07pm]
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