I’ve been proud to be a Floridian since I was a kid – maybe it was insecurity when relatives from up north would brag about New York, or my friends in school’s parents would brag about New York, or the person who lived next door would brag about New York, or the guy at pizza shop would brag about New York. If New York is all that, I would think, move back!
As I have painfully admitted previously on this site, my Florida pride even had me in the pro-confederacy column in terms of the US Civil War ( I once called it the War Between the States which demonstrates the pro-Confederacy propaganda I absorbed in those days), until I knew better when I was old enough to actually comprehend to sheer horror of Confederacy and the virtue of Union cause. However even for wars before that I tended to take the side Florida was on – for the British in the American Revolution (my views on this remain mixed to this day, to be honest, I see both sides, and am writing a book on the topic as it applies to Florida), and for the Spanish in every prior North American colonial war.
I would never run down Florida, except when I am disappointed we’re not meeting our potential, but our Governor who “invented” state pride has insulted us in writing. This passage from his newly released book is insulting to say the least.
“I was geographically raised in Tampa Bay,” DeSantis writes “but culturally my upbringing reflected the working-class communities in western Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio — from weekly church attendance to the expectation that one would earn his keep. This made me God-fearing, hard-working and America-loving.”Ron DeSantis in The Courage to be Free
This quote is like a punch in the face to proud Floridians like me. At first I tried to rationalize DeSantis’ quote saying, maybe because he is Catholic, he was saying this due to our state’s sorry history of anti-Catholicism in the early portion of the last century. But no, DeSantis is a guy who wants to rewrite history anyway and even embraced Governor Mosley’s anti-federal government, pro-slavery motto and flag. So DeSantis doesn’t have any trouble with Florida’s past after it became part of the United States (he probably does have a problem with us siding with the British during the American Revolution, something that occurred as I wrote last year, largely because of Florida’s high Catholic percentage in 1775).
These comments were followed up by DeSantis on Monday in New Hampshire claiming Floridians lacked state pride before he was Governor. I cannot hide my contempt for such comments and in fact they are plain offensive to myself and no doubt many of you.
As many of you know, I have dedicated much of my life to promoting this state’s history and our unique culture. From every corner of our state, particularly on the peninsula, we are different and proud. It’s an absolute insult to me personally for our governor to say we had no state pride until he became governor. It’s a personal insult to me. I’m a Floridian first and always.
That’s why when fellow liberals say to me “oh it’s so terrible there, why won’t you move,” I reject that premise. While I might be of Indian descent and have traveled an awful lot both domestically and internationally prior to 2020 (I have not been on a plane since Covid began), my world view has tended to always focus on Florida – including my reverence for Florida’s History. I don’t co-host a general history podcast, it’s a pod about Florida history. This site isn’t a general political and commentary site, it’s about Florida. Yes, we divert our attention at times but we always come back here. In fact, I have often said I am a Floridian first and foremost that happens to be an American, because Florida is in the United States. I’m not a person that drifts across the world with no identity – my identity is clearly one of a Floridian.
Our culture is unique here, shaped by our geography that isolates us from much of the rest of North America – it’s allowed us to develop a history different from much of the rest of the nation and feel of a tropical island, in a developed-world setting. While our population has exploded since the 1970’s (relocation’s didn’t start with DeSantis as he and his team love to imply), the stories and lore of Old Florida have cemented generations of new residents to this land. That I had noticed has changed recently, as newer Floridians much like those New Yorkers I hated dealing with growing up in the 1980’s, are determined to make Florida more like Oklahoma or Wyoming or some other mythical place other than what Florida is – and DeSantis appears to be their ringleader.
We can only speculate as to why DeSantis would reject his Pinellas County upbringing and embrace Midwestern roots, but to me it speaks ill of someone who was born and raised here and should be all about promoting our history and what we were and can still once again become. The 1970’s and 1980’s were GREAT times in Florida – we were the envy of the nation, and by that I don’t mean just disaffected folks from Ohio or Michigan, I mean of everyone. Government in the Sunshine wasn’t just a slogan, it was a reality. Sure we had our problems, but it’s nothing like today.
It’s absolutely insulting that our elected leader could act Florida had no pride or identity before he was on the scene. The “I am god complex” he conveys sometimes is beyond anything, rational. And for him to also claim he was shaped by Midwestern roots, is so insulting to those of us in this state. I guess in fairness, he’s attracted thousands of new residents through his rhetoric and policies- people who may have no institutional or historical links to the state who may parrot what he says, and have no consideration for what long-term Floridians think or believe.
Even Rick Scott, who I have critiqued in the past for being a Midwesterner who didn’t quite grasp our state, didn’t seem terribly amused by DeSantis’ comments. Senator Scott is correct and bravo to him for speaking out. DeSantis comments are not only insulting, they are plain false.
Florida isn’t a convenient political talking point for me. It’s where I have lived for 43 years, it’s a place I likely never leave no matter how hot it gets in the kitchen. Florida is worth fighting for.
I have been here, in Broward County, for 60 years. I saw Florida struggle with segregation, integration, and diversity. I have seen the inherent racism and know that it exists, BUT: I have seen Floridians of every culture and nationality trying to change things; I have seen baby steps and giant steps; I have seen restaurants where Black folks were not allowed to enter by the front door, and I have seen that change. Pride? You bet. It is only since DeSantis became Governor that everyone understands the word FloriDUH !!! He is an arrogant, under-educated, narcissist!