Every state is full of contradictions, made up as they are of human beings. But Florida’s incongruities are glaring.
Florida is overrun with people and cars; so why is there only one freeway in the state? In the absence of freeways, the speed limits are high on the streets and roads; people drive really fast, weaving in and out. It borders on anarchy. It’s driving as blood sport. It’s also, I’m guessing, why there are so many personal injury lawyer billboards along the roads.
Geographically, it’s the southern-most state, but it’s not very “Southern”. There’s no noticeable drawl, except by transplants from other states. You don’t see confederate flags. While people are friendly, it’s not particularly gracious in the sense that they actually want to talk to you. And while it’s socially and politically conservative, I wonder if that’s at least as much a function of the high percentage of seniors as it is the leanings of its southern neighbors (Florida has the highest percentage in the US of people over 65). You also don’t see as many churches everywhere as you do elsewhere in the South. Could the lack of “southerness” be because so many who live here came from somewhere else? (Less than one third of residents were born here.)
The earliest permanent settlements (of white folks) in the country were in Florida; but older neighborhoods are few and far between. Except for a few districts in the oldest cities, most neighborhoods we’ve seen here fall into three buckets: built in the 50’s, built in the last 10 years, or built in a factory—i.e. mobile homes. (OK, there are some great exceptions: Flamingo Park in West Palm Beach, Coconut Grove, and the Art Deco district in Miami Beach.) As you likely know, the housing bubble that crashed in 2007 was worse here than almost everywhere else. From the looks of it, developers have long been in charge in Florida—you can drive for many, many miles without leaving the sprawling malls, condos, housing, resort, and retirement developments. And in the midst of Florida’s incredibly unique and beautiful ecosystem are tourist attractions with fake lakes, movie-set jungles, and concrete animals. If there hadn’t been set-asides for some great wildlife preserves, state and national parks, I hate to think what it would look like.
And then there’s Senator Marco Rubio, who is full of contradictions himself. The son of Cuban immigrants, he has a harsh view on immigration (or does now anyway; when serving in the state legislature he proposed help for undocumented students to attend college). While he co-sponsored last year’s bipartisan immigration bill that passed by a wide margin in the Senate (the House wouldn’t consider it), he’s been backing away from it ever since. Then Rubio blasted President Obama’s executive order shielding some immigrants from deportation. (He’s for immigration reform, unless the president’s for it? Or, could there be a GOP primary coming up?)
All photos: © 2015 Sue Cummings and Bruce Howard. All rights reserved.