In Defense of Florida
As you may recently have read, a couple of editors from a certain online publication decided to score Florida DEAD LAST in a highly debated ranking of the 50 states, behind such luminaries as North Dakota and Mississippi. Really, Mississippi? Really?!?!
And while the gut reaction of most Floridians is simply to say, “Haters gonna hate,” and go to the beach, I'm not most Floridians. And I’ve had about enough.
Okay, so yeah, if you've read me before, you know I do my fair share of mocking the Sunshine State -- Lord, I've pretty much built a career out of it. But you know why I make fun of Florida? Other than the fact that it's easy? Because I live here, that’s why. And kinda like how I can make fun of my older brother because he's fat and should work out more, once you do it, lines have been crossed.
So you can see why, when said editors decided to disparage my great state, it was up to me to attack them with an iguana. Or at the least, show them -- with one, well-tanned arm behind my back -- why they are completely wrong. And that's what I intend to do.
Although for the record, I'm not even going to mention the year-round sunshine, the gorgeous beaches, and the beautiful people to make this point. Other than to say, of course, that I'm not gonna mention them. No, that would be far too easy. I'm going to do something that's literally impossible to do in Florida: dig deeper.
To start, I’d like to point out that 100 years ago this whole state was an uninhabitable swamp. And in pretty much the same amount of time it took California to destroy itself, we’ve built not one, but THREE thriving metropolitan areas. Four, if you count Jacksonville.
Do YOU know how to dredge an entire swamp, then build the third-largest state in America on it? Okay then, just checking. The fact that we even exist is a marvel of human engineering, and that we've grown this much, this fast, is a testament to what Floridians can achieve when they're not scamming Medicare or dating their high school teachers. Sorry, old habits die hard.
We are America's epicenter for international tourism. Don't believe me? Walk down any street in Miami Beach and count how many languages you hear being spoken. Guarantee you'll be at four before you even hit the beach. And that doesn't even take into account that the most popular destination for international folks visiting America is... no, New York, it’s not you... Orlando! Yes, when the people of the world come to America, they come to Florida. And they bring billions of their euros/yen/drachma (too soon?) with them. Although, yeah, I’m sure the economic impact of Mackinac Island is pretty impressive too. I mean, with those quaint horse carriages and all.
We’re also the most open-minded state in the country. In the Northeast and on the West Coast, being a conservative is whispered about in social circles: “oh did you hear about the new guy in the office? I heard he’s a (whispered) Re-pub-lican.” Oh. The horror. On the flip side, tell someone in a red state you don’t go to church and you may as well have just revealed that you sell crystal meth in elementary schools.
In politically diverse Florida, we try not to judge people by their ideology; and most voters have no problem checking “R” and “D” on the same ballot. THAT'S why our presidential votes are always so close. We're not stupid. It’s that we actually think about the individual candidates and don't get caught up in the party rhetoric.
And you know what else we don't get caught up in -- the rat race. In other places (*cough, DC, *cough) the first thing people ask when they meet you is: "What do you do?”, as if your job is somehow indicative of who you are. Floridians don’t ask this question, because for the most part we don’t care. (Also, there are a lot of retirees here, but that's not the point.) Who we “are” are golfers and fishermen, hunters, sailors, and scuba divers. Our jobs simply support that.
In Florida, we enjoy being outside, poolside, in the water, at the club, or generally enjoying the time we have on the planet instead of obsessing about time spent in the office. And yet our GDP is still the fourth highest IN THE COUNTRY!!! Oh snap, how'd we do that?
Yeah, not only is Florida an economic engine, but it's the engine that will drive America through the 21st century. How do I know this? Because I know that the United States has been the world's greatest innovator throughout history due in large part to the millions of industrious immigrants who've sought freedom and opportunity in our great land. And Miami has the most of any city in the WORLD. The de facto capital of Latin America, Miami is LOADED with the best and brightest the region has to offer, and that's why it will be the most relevant American city over the next 100 years. Although, sadly, our innovations will probably not involve craft distilleries and inventive uses for kale. We'll let Portland lead the world in those.
And finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't at least touch upon the state's natural beauty, which extends waaaaay past the shoreline. Yes, in many parts of the state our version of “elevation” is a freeway onramp, but if you’ve ever taken a hike through the Everglades' Big Cypress Preserve or floated down the Ichetucknee River, I think you'd agree that breathtaking landscapes can exist without mountains.
Honestly, I could keep going until the Dolphins win the Super Bowl, but since nobody's got that kind of time, I'll wrap it up. You may argue with some of these points, probably based mostly on what you saw on a fake news show or read on Twitter. And that’s okay, we know we've got flaws, but if you don’t live here, and if the only thing you know about us you learned during Spring Break in Panama City in 1998, all I ask is that you think before you make us your unoriginal punchline.
And if you take some time to get to know our state, you'll realize that we’re the best thing America has going for it. Or at the very least, we’re better than Ohio.