Years ago, studying a map of the United States, I felt embarrassed when I realized that Florida looked like a dick hanging off the bottom of the country. Nobody seemed to notice it but me back then, and if they did they never talked about it.
Well, that's changed.
Message boards on social media are brimming with Flori-duh hatred. Articles and blogs are filled with curses and put-downs. Entertainers like Stevie Wonder are leading a movement to boycott appearances.
Florida has long been a goofy amalgam of oldsters and swaggering machos, space shots and mojito shots, rednecks and yentas, gators and goons, oranges and sequins, boom and bust(s), wildlife and the wild life.
Like the awkward aardvark, Florida seems to be created by committee. The northern part seems more like rural Georgia, the panhandle like Mississippi, the southwestern part like the Midwest and the southeastern section, a cross between Greenwich Village, the Bahamas and a Latin American country. (The middle remains in large part the old Florida of cattle, groves, sinkholes and springs, a land unto itself lorded over by the Kingdom of Mickey.)
Since the hanging-chads of the botched 2000 election that changed the course of history, the goofiness of this messy, mixed-up state has taken a darker turn, and the best praise it can muster these days is being one of Bill Maher's Stupid States.
Rush Limbaugh broadcasts from the third-floor of his Palm Beach mansion (near neo-patriot Chuck Norris). OJ hung out south of Miami until he was incarcerated. And with the election of convicted felon and scary-head Gov. Rick Scott, the state increasingly is an official moral mess.
The Stand Your Ground law, one of the messes, has freed George Zimmerman, and created deserved outcry from people of good will throughout the world, even from the jurors on his trial.
This makes those of us who are progressive and who grew up in and live in this state feel sad and ashamed.
Like formerly progressive North Carolina, which is going through a tough time with all branches of its state government controlled by far-right zealots, this is a time to get past and to act up.
Some of you may feel frustrated, because despite push-backs, Florida is pretty much boycott-proof in the long run. Its nexus at the crossroads of North and South America means that the state's economy is more hemispheric than national, and will continue to become that way. Fabulous winters and world-class destinations like Disneyworld will continue to draw millions of tourists. And those seeking an easy life with no state income tax and sea-and-sky pleasures will still arrive and settle, as they have for a century.
But Floridians, we shouldn't have to be ashamed. We can turn our state around and fight the funk. We can get more active in the political scene, voting out the jerks and working and voting for candidates who will do the right thing, not the far-right thing.
We need to write our representatives, slap on bumper stickers, and contribute to the good guys.
This state has gone through tough times before and pulled out of it. The demographics are leaning progressive, and with some vision, organization and effort we can affect change.
So the rest of you, take your pot shots. We deserve them. But Florida residents, let's act. Right now our state may be a purple dick, but let's remake it into a blue peninsula of pride!