In Defense of Florida

I received a seething email from a man in Baltimore, Maryland. He apparently has a political bone to pick with the state of Florida, and he read that Florida is where I’m from.

He wrote: “…Florida is a stupid state, the most [deleted] up state in this country… I don’t think [Floridian] idiots deserve to be a state at all in my opinion.”

Well, I normally wouldn’t respond to a message like this, but I detected a slightly negative tone in the above email.

Granted, we Floridians have our problems. We are a unique state. And by “unique,” I mean that we are completely insane. But insanity is not the same as being “stupid.” Stupid people are uneducated, oftin using terible grammer.

But you know what? We Floridians are also polite, at least in West Florida. In fact, we don’t even use the word “stupid.” It’s offensive. If we’re going to call someone stupid, we usually say, “Well bless your heart.”

What irks me as a Floridian is whenever people from Baltimore stereotype me. Often, people assume that all Floridians speak Spanish and wear shorts year round. Which is ridiculous, sometimes we wear thong underwear.

I am proud of my homeland. Whenever I travel throughout the U.S., I find myself homesick for the nostalgic pastimes of the Florida of my youth. Such as, for example, head-on collisions.

Florida motorists are responsible for 79 percent of the auto accidents in the U.S., and we work hard to maintain that number. Florida is the only state where you can witness vehicles traveling both directions in the right lane, many of which are state employees.

I have totaled three cars in Florida. Each time, the cause of accident was that the driver ahead of me was a motorist who did not use a blinker and was also, technically, my immediate family member.

Something else I love about the Twenty-Seventh State is our wildlife. We are bustling with natural beauty such as bald cypresses, panthers, and Lyme’s disease.

If you are a Floridian and you haven’t picked at least one tick from your hind cheeks, are you even trying?

Also, scorpions. Scorpions are a big part of being a Floridian. I remember one time, when I was a kid, I was getting dressed for church and as I slid on my khakis, I felt something sting me on the inner thigh, very close to my Biblical regions. I tore off my pants to find a scorpion crawling around the crotch of my Dockers.

Within two minutes, my private parts swelled to the size of a televangelist. My mother took me to the hospital, the doctor looked at my inflammation and said—this is an actual quote:


This is exactly the kind of professional medical care you’d expect to get, growing up in Walton County.

Walton County is like a lot of other Florida counties whose demographics are classified as “economically stratified.” Which means that our counties contain both Dollar Generals AND Whole Foods Markets®.

By and large, my county is a place with down home folks. We have more mobile homes per capita than we have actual capita. Sometimes devastating hurricanes tear through our towns and cause hundreds of dollars’ worth of damage.

My Panhandle home is located at the tippy top of the state. Some folks call us West Florida. Others call us L.A., “Lower Alabama,” since we are within leaping distance of Alabama.

Panhandle people are decent, solid people, even though we get a bad rap.

Sadly, the national media portrays us as total hillbillies, which isn’t fair since, for starters, the national media only visits us during hurricane season, whereupon their only journalistic objective is to interview local residents with the fewest teeth.

Oh, sure, I’ll admit, we’re rural people. Yes, our state actually has a festival called “Goat Day.” Yes, many of us only have one set of grandparents.

But did you know that we in the Panhandle also lead the nation in smokeless tobacco sales?

Also, Florida contains the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States, Pensacola. A city which was established only six years before Florida’s SECOND oldest American city, Disney World.

Oh, but we are a great state. We love our heritage. We invented Gatorade. We invented air conditioning. We invented NASCAR. We invented Bobby Bowden.

And to any Marylander rude enough to assert that our state is stupid, well…

I say bless his corazón.


  1. Ed (Bear) - March 4, 2023 1:33 pm

    I think your piece today qualifies as “making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”. Very funny and fun to read!

  2. paulfsamsPaul Sams - March 4, 2023 3:17 pm

    I imagine folks in Florida are just about like folks anywhere. I live in Alabama, I still have all of my natural teeth, I even wear shoes. I can laugh at some of the jokes made about Alabama. There are things about Alabama I criticize because I care about my State and my home. Florida like Alabama has many good people who are mostly invisible since they live their lives, do good things and care about other people. Like other states, we have our share of problems. I don’t want to start a political argument, but, I wish we would elect better stewards of our state. Our state government needs to govern, not find ways to deny rights to people, not to judge people, not to tax food and instead, work to improve our roads, schools, bridges and more. I would like to see states spend more time on helping those that need help, Alabama to address the unique problems in our poverty stricken black belt, and for those of us as citizens, take our votes seriously, use our right to vote and get more involved in our state. I’m sure folks in Florida wish for similar things. [Disclosure: I’m not telling anyone how to vote or for whom they vote.] There are many if not all states that have their issues.

  3. David in California - March 4, 2023 4:31 pm

    Laughing so hard. Can’t wait to share this with (transplanted) FL friend.

  4. Kathy - March 4, 2023 4:57 pm

    In defense of being called hillbillies: one has to have hills to be a hillbilly.
    Yours truly,
    Missouri reader, originally from Arkansas

  5. Barbara - March 19, 2023 5:25 pm

    As a native of Pensacola (yes, there are a few of us), a former resident of De Funiak Springs and Dothan, Alabama, I’m so happy to have found your writings. Saw your interview on PBS this morning. I’ve been reading and laughing and crying to each one. Thank you for keeping our Southern life alive and well.

  6. P S Baker - July 10, 2023 8:41 pm

    Born and raised in Northwest Fla, moved from Milton to Pensacola for college then back. On to Ft. Walton Bch for a job until life moved me away. But always my plans are to go back to Fla and be a part of the small town where I was born and raised. There I will find people like us, small town lovers and country people, educated people, salt of the earth type people who love the kindness, hospitality and homeliness of places rich in extras that feed the soul and where people who don’t know what it really means to be a part of a community find a place called home. I love my small home town.


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