You kinda had to be aware of the first Denis Leary song in the mid-nineties to appreciate the beauty of what happened on CBS the other night.
And Denis Leary released “I’m an asshole” and it was funny because life was sufficiently good enough (for those of us not fighting a war in the Gulf) that we had time to get annoyed by the little things he mentions. It’s a song, he tells us, about the American Dream. In reality, it’s a song about how the American Dream has made us assholes.
He just didn’t realize it the first time, and neither did we.
Here’s a cute picture of a tiny opossum Scuppers brought me as a gift (don’t worry, the opossum was safely returned to nature.)
You’re going to need all that cuteness to remind you sometimes good things happen and make you smile. Because, quite honestly, this post will upset you. It should upset you.
Sometimes it’s harder to stay silent than I would like. This is one of those times.
Gulfport has a crime watch group. It is not, I should note, sanctioned by the police in any way, something Gulfport Police Chief Rob Vincent has gone out of his way to stress to the media. However, they use city facilities rent free (they meet in a facility for which the city typically charges rental fees), and on-duty police officers attend the meetings and speak and answer questions. In addition, their Facebook group has a shot of the entire Gulfport Police Department as its cover photo.
Before you read any further, please hear this: The Gulfport, Florida police department consists of good and kind men and women, and in 13 years of working with them, both professionally as a journalist and personally as a resident, I’ve never found a shred of anything to suggest we have an institutional problem with race relations in our departments. Never. Our officers are not part of this problem.
This post appeared on the Crime Watch Facebook group last week. Wednesday, I believe.
Sundown signs, for those of you who neither enrolled in Southern History college courses nor grew up in a town that had, as we now call it, “racial issues”, warned black people that if they dared set foot in that town after the sun set, they’d… well, quite honestly, they’d be lynched. Except they didn’t say “black” if they mentioned black people. They used another word, which I will not post here.
I left this crime watch group several months back. I grew tired of hearing people complain about “those kids” from Childs Park (which means black kids, because apparently Gulfport has no black people, which comes as a huge shock to many of my neighbors who – spoiler alert – happen to be black.) I got so tired of being angry at the page admins for allowing this and citing “free speech” which (another spoiler alert) isn’t what that means at all, Mr. Tim Spencer* (Tim Spencer runs the Facebook page and, as far as I can tell, the physical group).
But staying silent isn’t working. These people aren’t 87-year-old grandfathers who might spew a racial belief from their childhood but not fully understand it. They know what they’re saying. They’re the new breed of racist. They’re the most dangerous kind, more dangerous than the Aryan Nation or people who walk around with swastikas inked on their arm, because unless they show their ass, we don’t know. They’re fostering hate and allowing hate speech and not giving a rat’s red ass about how the black people who read that post feel, not just about those people, but Gulfport and everyone who lives and loves here.
To my knowledge, the city seemed somehow unaware of this post until this weekend. A resident contacted the council, police chief, and city manager, and Ward Two councilperson Christine Brown contacted the city manager (by the terms of Gulfport’s charter, elected officials cannot talk to anyone but charter staff – the city manager, attorney and clerk – about city matters). I have high hopes the city will take appropriate action, although I’m uncertain what they can do.
As for you, you can email the city council, police chief and city manager and ask them to stop allowing this group to use city facilities for free. Ask them to stop providing on-the-clock officers to this group. Remind them Gulfport has a history of tolerance, not just that dark spot that every southern town seems to have. Tell them we want our past to stay past. You can email them all at once at this link.
Oh, yeah… one more thing: Mr. Dino Della Noce owns South Pinellas Bicycles, where El Cap and I bring our bikes for repair. He does excellent work. Unfortunately, now that I know he’s a crazy fucking racist, we need a new bike shop. I encourage no violence (of course) but if you patronize South Pinellas Bicycles, STOP. And tell everyone you know this is a dangerous man who wants to set our lovely town back in time 60 years.
Hate has no place in my town.
*”Free speech” means the government can’t throw you in jail for expressing an opinion, but even that has exceptions. The First Amendment to the US Constitution says:
- Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The first amendment refers to government only. Free speech does not mean any private venue must allow you to say what you want. It doesn’t mean you can incite violent acts, ever. It means when someone spews hate speech online, the page manager can delete it. In fact, if you don’t, I believe you can get sued.
|Love me some Stinkyfeet|
The east coast of Florida in Fernandina is simply breathtaking: high coastal dunes and creamy buff sand meets blue over and over again. A1A, a road not included in the original Guide to the Southernmost State because it didn’t exist in one long form yet, is a thin ribbon cutting through the oaks and pines and twisting through beach houses and flats. Florida’s northeast coast of Florida deserves more than what I gave it today on my eager way to my camp site in Little Talbot Island State Park.
The park is one of seven state parks that comprise Talbot Island State Parks, and is a typical Florida state park. By typical I mean well tended with breathtaking vistas. We pulled into our campsite about an hour ago. The sun was just dipping into our line of sight over Myrtle Creek, and I clipped the leash on Calypso so she could stretch her legs after a long day of stops-and-goes in the van. We’re about 150 feet from the water, so I thought she’s enjoy a good roll in the sand.
As she did, I noticed a fishermen crouched by the water’s edge, fiddling with something in the water. Curiosity trumped my disgust at finding people near our camp site (I’m not a chatty camper) so I approached him and asked, “What’d you catch?”
“A snake,” he said. I moved closer (I like snakes) and saw it appeared to be a young rattler. It also appeared that he was holding the snake’s head underwater.
“I caught it with my rod and reel,” he said, then explained how snakes could swim if they wanted to (really, Darwin?) and that the storm made them swim to shore from islands. He intended to drown it.
“But don’t tell no one, ’cause it’s illegal,” he said.
“I know,” I told him. I watched. He was trying to drown the little guy by holding his head in the sand under the water. It didn’t appear to be working.
At this point I walked back to the camper; the snake was gorgeous and it was making me sad to watch this city dweller disguised as a redneck. I told El Cap what I’d seen and he wanted to see the snake, so we walked back down to the water. He talked to the guy and asked why he was killing the snake.
“Well, you wouldn’t want it waiting for you when you walked outside your camper, would you?” he said.
“No, but he wouldn’t want to be there, either,” he said and walked away. You can’t argue with assholes. I didn’t say anything but listened as the guy’s buddy came over and asked him why he didn’t let it loose in the woods surrounding us. I guess the peer pressure was just too much, because the guy finally walked away from the camp sites and water and tossed the snake into the grass. The snake slithered away, I assume, gasping for breath and trying to figure out what just happened.
As I understand it, rattlers can hold their breath for up to 45 minutes, so, you see, you can’t drown a rattlesnake.
Because you can’t drown a rattlesnake, asshole.
After about 10 minutes or so, the snake was holding on to life with a tenacity seen only by overweight men at an all-you-can-eat buffet, so he brought it on land and tried to stuff its head in the sand. Still, no joy.