Dearest Floridians, I write to you in rage, because the Sunshine State has recently been accused of being the worst state in the United States in “everything.”
According to the travel blog, “Thrillist,” Florida comes in 50th when considering “contributions to America, so think inventions, food/drink, somewhat productive famous people, unique physical beauty, etc.”
Worse, it comes in after Delaware, a state that, were the U.S. a movie, would be the credits. There is nothing wrong with Delaware, to be fair—but nor has there been anything significant about it since 1776.
Now, Florida has made its mistakes in the past. It has been a strong proponent of the Common Core State Standards, which are enormously unpopular amongst many states and schools.
According to USA Today, Florida ranks eighth in the nation for highest violence and crime rates. And, yes, Florida weather is at best wildly unpredictable and at worst consciously homicidal.
Yet where else will you find such a wealth of Caribbean and Latin culture? New York, Chicago, and California all have large Latino populations and influence, but Floridian culture is intertwined with its resident cultures like no other state can boast. Being able to have gator tail in one restaurant and black beans & rice in another right across the street, with both being authentic, should say enough.
It goes beyond food; the U.S., since first becoming a nation, has promoted itself as a land composed of—and welcoming of—immigrants.
As one such immigrant, I can claim that this is not always the case. Florida, however, with its wide variety of outside cultures, has embodied this image expertly for decades, making itself a haven for foreigners.
We can also note the incredible variety of wildlife that Florida boasts. In the Everglades alone, there exists more biodiversity than in half the other states combined. Several dozen species of orchids grow nowhere else in the world. The fact that half these flora and fauna are lethal to humans is negligible.
In fact, we may say that Florida was the site of conception for the U.S. as we know it. The country’s oldest city, St. Augustine, was founded in Florida in 1565. It continues to be a popular destination to this day.
Finally, and most easily, Florida is home to both Disney World and Universal Studios. It is not simply that these two amusement parks are fun destinations that appeal to one’s childhood and bring in millions of tourists. That would be too uninspired.
Disney World, and the way it has put a price tag to your very childhood dreams, the way it makes sure money can very well buy happiness, the way it robs you of your time and sells it back to you in the form of a FastPass—if these things do not sit at the heart of the American capitalist dream, then nothing really does.
Florida is both bizarre and familiar; it is at once diverse and quintessentially American. A ranking that fails to account for all these things is un-American in every way.