Possible future state slogan: Welcome to Florida, where we smite manatees.
Why? Because the Bible tells us so. Also, the Bill of Rights.
That's right, you allegedly "gentle" sea cow: No more entitlements for you!
Just when you thought politics and public policy could get no weirder around here, local tea party members are protesting a plan to protect manatees — because it would be against God and country.
"We cannot elevate nature above people," Edna Mattos, leader of the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots, told Times reporter Craig Pittman. She was talking about the federal government's plan for a manatee refuge in Kings Bay.
Tea party members picketed a public hearing, and Mattos blasted an e-mail to thousands across the state urging them to similarly express dissent to Congress.
"That's against the Bible and the Bill of Rights," she said.
Well, I looked, and nowhere in the Bill of Rights could I find the part about your right to run your speedboat as fast as you want over anything that gets in your way.
Though, given the scars you see so often on them, the manatees might have a pretty good case on that whole cruel and unusual punishment thing.
The underlying issue brewing in Kings Bay is an important one, if you give a whit about manatees or sensible ways to avoid gouging, hitting or killing them with our boats.
Killing them being something we have done 13 times there in the last ten years.
After The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau featured an episode on manatees called Forgotten Mermaids back in 1972, Kings Bay became known as a place for people to swim with them. Some 100,000 of us go there to see them each winter.
Now, the feds want to make Kings Bay a permanently designated refuge for the more than 550 manatees that currently hang out there each year.
This would restrict boat speeds year round.
And can't you just see the bumper sticker already?
YOU'LL TAKE AWAY MY GOD-GIVEN RIGHT TO RAKE A PROPELLER OVER THE BACKSIDE OF ANY LIVING THING I WANT TO WHEN YOU PRY MY THROTTLE AND MY PBR FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS!
It might help in this battle of righteousness if these slow-moving creatures with no enemies (except us) had, say, fangs instead of molars for munching grasses. (Though from what I hear, manatees don't want to work — they just laze around the mangroves roots all day, collecting government benefits.)
Which might be funny, if it weren't so close to actual viewpoints that currently exist in the world. Late night TV mockers must thank their stars daily for the Sunshine State and stories that turn Snooty the Manatee into a symbol of all that's wrong in America.
And for the record, pointing out the absurdity of even a small group making this into a Big Government issue akin to battles over health care or taxes is not "pushing a liberal agenda." (And, darn it, why do I never get my copy of the "liberal agenda" before the "liberal meeting"?)
This is about debating reasonable protection for manatees in our waters — a sentiment I suspect crosses party lines like a lazy manatee slowly crossing a … well, you get the picture.