Florida, state of my birth and the first 19 years of my life, still lives up to my memories of being racist, violent, anti-Semitic, and pretty much anti-everything else. The Miami Herald reported recently of a Florida state child abuse investigator leaving a "string of anti-Semitic expletives" on the answering machine of a family she was investigating.
Floridians of the old school remain not only bigoted but dumb. Only Mel Gibson would leave his racist comments on a voice recorder, I thought. Or say them publicly to a cop. But he did and she did and, worse, the seeming freedom to make statements of hatred seem to be on the rise in Florida — and across the world.
The article in the Herald reported that the woman, who had worked for the state agency since 1989, had visited a family where the father of two young children was accused of domestic battery. She left her cellular number on their answering machine and thought that she had hung-up. Instead, the phone was on and "...it was still recording when Arnold launched into a string of vulgarities that reinforced Jewish stereotypes," said the Herald, politely.
Oh Florida, my Florida. I spent my childhood listening to "vulgarities that reinforced Jewish stereotypes". They came from students, teachers and the coach, a tobacco-chewing bubba who was much beloved by Tampa sports fans.
I still remember the "colored only" toilets and water fountains and the "no niggers, Jews, or Catholics" clubs, hotels, and mobile home parks. Plus ça change, plus ça la meme chose say the French — the more things change, the more they remain the same. DCF Administrator Ben Shirley said in a statement the state expects employees "to adhere to the highest level of integrity and personal responsibility.''
Maybe. Maybe there is an odd, psychological rift appearing in the supposedly civilized world that is surprising us with its odiousness and violence. The 1930s, after all, had their good times. Berlin was an open society. France was enjoying itself as a capital of art and culture, and the United States was still in the world of Bringing Up Baby.
Anti-semitism is a tradition in Europe. In Florida, it is part of the culture of the South but has not become a major problem for some time. That is changing and the symbols of hatred are coming out of not only backwoods, tent-revival Florida (which may have disappeared into strip malls by now) but even from the Spanish speaking community in South Florida.