A message to America from inside Florida
Please, be nice. We are human beings and we don’t all love what’s happening here.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a tour at North Baptist Church in Spartanburg on Wednesday April 19, 2023.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a tour at North Baptist Church in Spartanburg on Wednesday April 19, 2023. [ TRACY GLANTZ | The Island Packet ]
Published May 19, 2023|Updated May 26, 2023

We need to talk, rest of the country. Stop what you’re doing and read this, especially if what you’re doing is typing a mean internet comment about Florida.

Recently, three Tampa restaurants were awarded coveted Michelin stars, which is what happens when, I think, a cartoon guy made of tires decides he likes the food? Exciting for our region! Naturally, noted culinary publication Bon Appétit reported this news on Instagram.

What followed was what can only be described as, pun intended, a tire fire. Nearly everyone in the comments aimed a slingshot of tuna carpaccio at Florida, calling for our complete cancellation. A sampling:

I’m not spending one cent in that state. Florida is not the vibe right now, y’all. Sadly, Florida is a do not visit zone for obvious reasons. Pls stop promoting states that literally assault human rights. Be better. Is it served with a side of fascism and topped with racism? Pass. Lost my appetite for Florida. FL? No thx.

The impulse to pile on makes sense. But we Floridians would thank you folks in states that still require gun permits to ease up. The current, ahem, situation is not the fault of a dude washing dishes in the back of a restaurant.

Let’s step out of the comments because my thumb hurts from infinite scrolling. Yes, the Florida Legislature has gone 77% Handmaid. Yes, Gov. Ron DeSantis has plenty of fans here, Floridians with no problem being pawns in a cynical presidential campaign, who relish each new podium poster that says “FLORIDA FRIGGIN’ RULES.” Even before this dismal turn of events, Florida suffered reputational challenges due to Florida Man memes, renderings of poverty, mental illness and misfortune sketched with the subtle artistry of Kidz Bop.

But, please. We are not a joke or a waste of limestone. At least not fully. We are a culturally diverse pot of real humans who occupy different points on a spectrum of politics and life experience. In fact, Florida was a swing state until recent memory. In 2022, DeSantis overruled the Legislature to redraw congressional maps how he wanted; meanwhile, in state chambers, a new supermajority stood at the ready to multiply bad laws like wet Mogwai.

You must know that not everyone here supports, oh God, let me fetch the heavy-a$$ reference materials:

Nonstop school book bans; historic attacks on LGBTQ+ people; a six-week abortion ban; a hostile university takeover; whitewashing textbooks; eliminating majors and diversity programs; targeting and removing elected officials; busting unions; sending Florida law enforcement officers to, uh, Texas to patrol for migrants; and whatever the Donald Duck is going on over at Disney. This is not a complete list, mind you.

It’s not just chill local drum circle members who object. Do you know how often I hear from conservative readers worried about a broader autocratic slide? Centrists making the kind of cringe face that creates a triple chin? A lot! Even the Catholic church is concerned!

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Furthermore, you don’t need to tell us that Florida is a frog in tepid water. We are painfully aware. Por favor, understand that we wake each morning, fumble for our cursed handheld computers and blink a pupil measurement toward the screen, sending the device glittering to life with more announcements too far-fetched to metabolize.

Further-furthermore, what do you want us to do? Please, do not be so obtuse as to say “vote,” or we will eliminate you during the rose ceremony. Plenty of Floridians are organizing and protesting, and most others simply want to get their kid to language arts class while there are still a few books left. It’s true, our overlords may be toasting each other with tawny port, but please, the regular people are just standing in the sub line at Publix. Should we cut the state off at Tallahassee and float away into the ocean? Just take a big bandsaw to DeFuniak Springs and run it clear across to the Jacksonville International Airport?

Move, you say. Get out! Ah, yes, the most specious argument of all. Plenty of residents, teachers and LGBTQ+ people chief among them, are choosing to leave Florida, and not a soul could blame them. But just assuming everyone can uproot their lives stems from a place of privilege that doesn’t account for money restraints, family obligations, custody arrangements, hard-fought careers or deep relationships.

And this bullet point must be whispered: Some of us like it here. I know, what? Many Floridians are invested in our communities. Some of us enjoy year-round tropical weather, sprawling parks and beaches, breathtaking wildlife. Some of us came to Florida so we wouldn’t have a coronary shoveling show.

Further-further-furthermore, do you want us, Asheville? How about you, Philadelphia? Is there room in Portland for 21 million? Do you guys all have spotless state governments? Are you going to survive the rising sea level any better than we are? (Wait, actually, bad example.)

To wrap this up, our dining scene really has exploded. I suggest with full confidence that you try the mozzarella cart at Rocca, simply divine. But it’s true that no one is making you come to Florida. Not yet, anyway. Don’t spend money here if that’s your moral imperative. Really!

Just be kind to those of us who are working hard to keep this peninsula attached to the lower 48 and recognized under the federal government before we are swallowed by the ocean. We are sweaty, sunburned and extremely fatigued, as you might imagine. Thx.

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