Florida, Day 3
Oh Florida, you are a contradiction and a study in contrasts, aren’t you?
Wild and natural places and critters are everywhere. While the freezing winters in Minnesota kill off anything poisonous or treacherous, they all thrive and multiply down here. Have you ever stepped in a nest of fire ants? Found a rattlesnake in your grill? Had an alligator knocking on your front door?
While much of coastline is developed into high rise condominiums and beach resorts, there are a few natural places left to enjoy. Lover’s Key is one of our favorite beaches to visit. Pay a State Park fee, take a tram through the mangroves and brackish water areas and emerge onto a beach like Old Florida used to be. Wild grasses, trees, less-maintained beaches and so very many shore birds and turtles.
I sit here writing this in a beautiful house on a golf course in a gated country club community while a team of hardworking Hispanic laborers maintain the pristine grounds and homes. There are plenty of people in this VERY red state that don’t favor our (former) immigration policies, yet couldn’t exist in their retirement and luxury without the immigrants who do all this hard work. I’ve always made it a point to speak to the ones that take care of things near here, even if just a smile and word of thanks. They are lovely, grateful, hard-working, kind and honorable people. It’s hard to imagine them being unwelcome anywhere.
The northern part of the state and panhandle is definitely still the “deep south” and with that comes (often, not always) conservative politics, fundamental religion and centuries old racism and bigotry. It’s a worldview I cannot comprehend. I’ll take a hit for my view here about the south, but I’ve traveled to Dallas, Atlanta and Chapel Hill for work, New Orleans for fun, and stayed in small towns all over Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas and Kentucky. I’ve had good experiences and met great people, but I’ve also seen and experienced a lot of the negative stereotypes.
In contrast, southwest Florida is heavily populated by people from other places. Minnesota, Michigan, New England and New York/New Jersey, Germany and other European countries have lost many of their residents to this region of Florida. In addition to Spanish, you’ll hear a variety of languages in this area that always surprises me. Because of their places of origin, the people are (often, not always) more progressive in their thinking and expansive in their worldview. Mixed in among the extreme wealth and privilege are some really amazing, educated, cultured and fascinating people.
Yes, I’ll have a lot of people disagree with my sentiments on this blog. That’s alright. I’m writing from my experience. I keep my privilege in check as often as I can. I have lived many lifetimes, seriously.
Friends ask if we’ll retire to Florida. No, not in a million years. I’ll retire to nowhere. Home is Minnesota and from there we will raise our kids, enjoy our grandchildren and extended family, have great times with friends and love the distinct seasons. We’ll work until we can’t any more, and then we’ll travel the world, Florida included. Florida, in all her contrasts and contradictions.