This morning I read part of an article called "Is Florida the New Wall Street?" That link should take you to the same part, though to go any further you need to have a Business Insider subscription, which I don't. The beginning paragraphs were enough to get me thinking about the idea, however.
When the pandemic hit New York City, Florida was overwhelmed with people from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut who had decided to flee here. When our governor attempted to impose a quarantine period, he was overwhelmingly mocked, derided, and shut down by New York and other states, with cries of "overreaction" and "interference with interstate commerce." Of course, it was not long before New York and many other states turned around and decided to implement their own quarantines. It reminds me of the European assault on President Trump for closing our borders—and their subsequent decisions to do the same thing themselves. Mind you, I was not happy with the president's decision to close off traffic from Europe, since it happened just in time to cancel a long-awaited visit from our Swiss family. But the hypocrisy of the reaction (from both Europe and New York), without any apology when they decided to implement the same policies, is galling.
But this post is not actually about the pandemic directly. It's about another flood of New Yorkers who might be coming Florida's way.
The pandemic and the rise of remote work are accelerating movement from the Northeast to the Southeast, and that has some suggesting a tipping point has been reached.
“I suspect” Florida will soon rival New York as a finance hub, Leon Cooperman, the hedge fund manager who founded New York-based Omega Advisors, told Business Insider in an email. “‘Tax and spend’ has been [the northeast’s] policy. It has to change or New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will become ghost towns.”
It's not as if the business would not be welcomed: Florida needs solid jobs that are not so dependent on the tourist industry. But we do not need more people who are interested in making Florida into a second New York.
I lived in Upstate New York for much of my life, and recall well the division between New York City and the rest of the state, with the large-population City tail largely wagging the State dog. Hence New York's high taxes, strong unions, and onerous gun laws. Florida is in a similar situation, with the Miami/Palm Beach area being worlds apart from most of the rest of the state. If a large influx of New Yorkers comes to that part of the state hoping for more freedom, a better tax situation, and a lower cost of living, they'll find them—but if they bring with them the same attitudes that have led to the troubles they are fleeing, then we will all lose.
We have a friend who one year visited us from New York for the express purpose of trying to influence Florida's elections. His company was welcome, but I tell you, I'm a lot more worried about that than about whatever the Russians might be doing via our social media.
When we joined one of our previous churches, the pastor explained, "You do not have to agree with us to be welcome here. We only ask one thing: don't try to change us. If you feel the need to change our culture, you are released from your membership vows and are free to find another church that may be a better fit for you." When push came to shove, that's not exactly how it worked out, but the theory made sense to me.
I know whereof I speak. When we moved to Florida from New York more than 35 years ago, I was the quintessential Northeastern snob. It took me several years to realize that Florida was not (and is not) the backwards, ignorant place my prejudice had led me to believe.
I still miss New York and the Northeast. I especially miss great apples and unpasteurized cider. But the solution is not to plant apple trees here in Florida, but to appreciate citrus trees and unpasteurized orange juice. And to visit the places we have left behind.
We need to let Florida be Florida, New York be New York, Texas be Texas, and Montana be Montana. Just as Europe is realizing that they must not give up French, Norwegian, and Dutch culture for the sake of the European Union, we need to work for the United States to be united while remaining individual states. If we allow ourselves to become a homogenized monoculture, I can just about guarantee it will not give us the best of everything, but the worst—or if we're lucky, mediocrity.
Florida taught me that. Do you think you know what orange juice tastes like? What you buy in the store, even "fresh squeezed," is taken apart, put (somewhat) back together, cooked (pasteurized), and deliberately made so that every carton of orange juice tastes the same as every other. You haven't really tasted orange juice until you drink it raw, without all the processing, and with flavors that change as the season progresses and different varieties of orange go into the juice.
Florida does not need to be pasteurized and homogenized. I don't mean there aren't areas in which we can improve. But there's a huge difference between working for change from inside a culture you love, and running roughshod over a community to which you have fled, without regard for the local population. Cultural imperialism is no more palatable than any other kind.
So come, New York refugees. Live here, grow here, become Floridians. But don't bring New York with you. When I want to experience New York culture, I'll take a vacation there.