Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Stand Up for Florida

            I’ve been reading a number of snide postings on Facebook that insult, belittle, and otherwise cast aspersions on my new home state, in light of the recent Zimmerman verdict, and a recent posting that some minor municipal official used “jew” as a synonym for “bargain.” I find this to be vexatious and disturbing to my feelings about my new home state, as if we were all ignorant yahoos and racists.
            I am a relatively new Floridian; we moved here in December of 2008, leaving New Hampshire in the teeth of a snowstorm. We have made new friends, and adjusted to our new home state’s mono-seasonal atmosphere of air-conditioning everywhere. We love the diversity, the street fairs, the relaxed atmosphere of being able to wear shorts and sandals all year long. I love my new jobs—being rabbi on weekends, and a college professor during the week.
            Florida represents America in miniature: we have folks who were born here, immigrants, transplants, veterans, and people from all over the world. The restaurants cater to all different sorts of tastes. We have world-class entertainment—it’s not all casinos. If you like the symphony, ballet, Broadway-style shows, new talent, or the singer you remember from the ‘60s or ‘70s, you will find it all here. And you will make as many new friends as you are able. We are very happy.
            When the Trayvon Martin trial concluded, we were as dismayed as the rest of the country: we believed that justice had not been served, and that America still had a long way to go before a young African-American man could walk safely anywhere he wished, wearing a hoodie. There are no simple answers to what could, or should, have happened. One of my students, a veteran, told me that both Zimmerman and Trayvon made mistakes, and, because a gun was involved, the result was irreparable. And now, a young man so full of promise is dead, and we as a nation are hurting.
            That does not, however, give America license to dump on Florida. Many Floridians own guns, but so do many New Yorkers, Californians, Kentuckians, and Ohioans. This is not the place for me to debate the position of guns in American society. I am only asking that people not use the Trayvon trial as an excuse to dump on my state, a place I love. We have problems here, beginning, I believe, with a governor who is out of touch with the people he is supposed to serve, but this is not unusual in America. And we are a democracy, meaning that we have the power of the vote.
            As for the second issue—my first pulpit was in North Carolina, another fine state, where I first encountered the use of the word “jew” to mean “bargain.” It is an old pejorative, and I learned not to let it bother me. Consider all the racist slurs that African-American people must suffer, or Hispanics, or Muslim-Americans. We are all part of the great American mosaic, and should be respectful of one another’s feelings.

            Come visit Florida. We have a great deal to offer. And we’re getting better all the time.