I was born in the State of New Jersey (as any young sensible Jewish person would be). About a year later I moved to Florida. No, it wasn’t an early retirement. It’s just where my parents wanted to be. I spent most of my seven years there deathly afraid that alligators were going to come out of the creek behind our apartment and eat me. And, by the way, if you’re like me and are never quite sure if it’s alligators or crocodiles, I looked it up, I definitely mean alligators.
Although I’ve spent most of the rest of my life not living in Florida, I keep heading back to visit as, as soon as I left, many family members immigrated there and I can’t turn left or right off highway 95 without running into a sibling, cousin, and at least one parent. Also there was that one time in Anaheim when Minnie Mouse made a pass at me and so whenever I visit Orlando it feels like I’m visiting an ex-girlfriend.
When the news comes on these days, after you get past the mass shootings and the tragedy in Ukraine, what comes up next is always something frightening in Florida. Mostly, it’s the current governor’s campaign against “wokeness.” Woke is a term that also frightens me a little bit in that I’m not sure I’m allowed to use it. I think it’s the general idea that all humans have rights regardless of whatever their identity may be. As a very liberal person I’m never sure I’m using it correctly. It reminds me a little bit of when the term Black Lives Matter came along. My initial reaction was “of course, all lives matter.” I learned very quickly that I was missing the point. Yes, of course, all lives matter. But after centuries of institutionalized racism on the back of slavery we need to especially remind ourselves that black lives, do indeed, matter. Saying “all lives matter” diffuses that.
Ron Desantis (The “Smart Trump”) also scares me. Especially the success he’s had making his agenda which is overtly anti-woke into state law. This agenda is not good for human beings and, as someone who lived in the sixties (okay, I was born in 1968, does that count?) I thought some of these battles were long since over. I want to live in a world where people are free to be who they want to be, as long as it doesn’t infringe on those desires and the health of any other human beings. I want women to be able to choose what they do with their bodies. I want people of any gender to be able to thoughtfully question their place in that role and flip up their switch if that’s how they’re feeling. I want no-one to be able to carry a gun in public, concealed or otherwise. As long as I’m laying out my agenda, let’s send all the guns into the sun.
All of these things are at issue in Florida and since Desantis declared his run for president and, honestly god-forbid, if he wins, America itself could become a place which no longer can legitimately call itself the land of the free, at least not in the eyes of the majority of people who live here.
So, this is my problem in general with the state of Florida…A place I spent a chunk of early formative years in; A place I visit every year because of family; A place where hopefully the roads in and out of Disney World won’t fall apart now that they’re no longer in control of them. Also the humidity is awful.
Los Angeles poet Rick Lupert is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. He created PoetrySuperHighway.com and hosted the Cobalt Cafe reading for almost 21 years (which lives on as a virtual series). His 27 collections of poetry include God Wrestler and The Low Country Shvitz. He edited the anthologies A Poet’s Siddur, A Poet’s Haggadah, The Night Goes on All Night. and Ekphrastia Gone Wild. Rick works as a music teacher and graphic designer. He writes a weekly Jewish poetry column for jewishjournal.com and can also be found online at jewishpoetry.net. He’s fond of his wife, their son, and cats.