The Two Americas: A Lesson from South Florida

Before the real Sarah Palin went to the podium to announce that “It’s Saturday Night!” Tina Fey did one of her skits on a Palin News conference, making fun of Palin’s implication that parts of the U.S. aren’t really “America.”

My wife and I watched this historic episode of SNL from Boca Raton, a place I’ve characterised as not quite part of America myself:

Regular readers of this blog have probably get the feeling that we don’t think that South Florida in general and Palm Beach in particular are really part of the U.S., at least in a “style of mind” sense.

Now we know this to be a fact: a councilman-elect in Tequesta has refused to swear or affirm that he will “support, protect and defend” the government,” even though Tequesta itself is hardly at war (except perhaps with the local gangs.)

Fortunately for everyone the St. Lucie River, Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchie River form a nice barrier, which would make a suitable dividing line between the “U.S.” and whatever kind of country the God-hating liberals want to create beyond that. But given the inability of Homeland Security to hold the borders we have–and that includes the Rio Grande–we’d probably just create another illegal immigration problem.

It didn’t take long to be reminded of this.

The next morning, we got up and went to Panera Bread for breakfast.  The one and only line was long and the sign for help wanted in the window was big.  So we settled in for a long wait.

But, alas, another line formed. So we, in the back of the one we were in, had a straight shot for it and took it.  We were now second, and just about ready to step up, when a women cut in front of us, keeping us in second place for a few minutes longer.  My wife was incensed at this lack of manners, and wanted to say something, but I whispered her not to do so.  We finally got our breakfast amidst rumblings about calling the cops.

One of the things I learned early growing up in South Florida is that the way one reacted to such lapses in etiquette was a measure of the kind of Christian you were, be it in line or in traffic or wherever.  My wife, raised in a Southern culture that is obsessively polite, has always been mystified by my seeming diffidence in such matters.  But she didn’t have to put up with this on a regular basis, and does not now.

Having gotten through this ordeal, we went on to Ft. Lauderdale (where, as I always like to say, “the animals are tame and the people run wild”) and got on the plane for Knoxville.  We rolled the last of our luggage into the parking garage elevator, and notice a young couple making a dash for the lift.  We held it for them while they got in.

“You just get in from New York?” the young man asked.

“No, Ft. Lauderdale,” I grimly replied, sensing a distinction without a difference.

“Nobody holds the elevator for you in New York,” the man added.  Turns out they got to see the historic SNL in the studio audience, which was way cool.  But all four of us, having had good visits, were glad to be home.

Comedy is a good way to highlight serious issues in a non-threatening way, and sometimes what seems really absurd to the comedian (and some of the audience) actually rings true to others.  That’s sort of the way I feel about Tina Fey’s routine.  They can laugh all they want about some parts of this country not being thought of as “America,” but the truth is, that’s exactly the way those of us in “flyover country” feel about it.  And experiences such as we had don’t help.

It’s ironic that liberals talk about the need for community, yet many of the places where they are in the driver’s seat (the ones with a car, at least) are sorely lacking in that regard.   South Florida, for me, is Exhibit A of this.  It’s also ironic that liberals talk about the need for generosity, yet surveys consistently show that conservatives are at the top in charitable giving, especially when this is measured relative to their income.

Every election we have in the U.S. is, in a sense, a vote for the kind of country we want to have.  As you who are to vote step up to do so, think about this: what kind of America do you want?  There are certainly rude people in our parts, and we encountered great people in our return to what I call home (such as this and this.)  But what general tenor needs to be set?  There’s a lot of talk about healing.  But those who intend to heal need to start by making their words and deeds sweet, because someday they may have to eat them.

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