No punchline. I really am hoping for the best.
I’m a woman who hails from Florida, who has lived in Tallahassee, Orlando, Tampa, and St. Pete, canoed (badly) nearly a dozen rivers, including a particularly harrowing trip across the St. Johns (why????????), have family in Jacksonville and Indiantown near Lake Okeechobee, roasted on tons of beaches, read many, many, many books on the Sunshine State, and hold a master’s degree in Florida Studies (look it up, it exists). But when I think about my decades in Florida, like many others, my memories move in hurricanes.
I remember the first time my sister and I bodysurfed in hurricane weather in the Atlantic Ocean. I was terrified when an undertow flattened me against the ocean floor. I remembered not to fight it, and I was lucky when it allowed me back up. My babysitter made me swear not to tell my parents – a promise I’ve kept until right now.
I remember hurricane days off from school, dark mornings and afternoons spent watching daytime tv with my sister. My parents usually had to work, so there was more room in the tub when we hid from tornadoes.
I remember when, as a teenager, I had to spend the night at the Holiday Inn in Kissimmee where I made bagels and sandwiches for angry, sunburned tourists. That hurricane crashed all the way up I-4, from Tampa to Daytona, while I tried to sleep in a room full of elderly breakfast waitresses. That way, we were all there at 6 am to feed those ungrateful monsters.
I remember washing my hair in the rain when the power and water went out for days and driving my Jeep through flooded streets that regular cars feared to navigate.
I don’t remember all of the names of the storms. Mostly there’s me and the people I loved hunkering down and lucking the fuck out, but I do remember gaping at the chewed up remains of houses and businesses, where toilets always stuck out like ancient artifacts in the rubble. Evidence of whose luck hadn’t gotten them all the way out.
It’s that visible, terrible aftermath of big storms that Rick Scott was thinking of when, three days ago, he said, “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott has made a good life for himself betting against the safety and well-being of Floridians, from privatizing prisons to his vile and unwavering support of “stand your ground” laws and cutting costs on Florida essentials like mosquito control. And for a state with so much to lose to the horrors of climate change, he has happily forbidden the very use of the term.
Prepare for the worst. That’s not what Rick Scott does.
From my adopted state of South Carolina, probably narrowly missing the worst of Hurricane Irma, I worry about my family and friends in Florida who have done what they can actually do to prepare for the worst. Their storm shutters in place, their windows boarded up, the random bullshit cleared from their yards, so much bottled water. Hopefully, they’ll have only wistful memories of the hurricane (the lights went out and the wind howled . . . ), but there will doubtless be those who suffer terribly. Folks in the Caribbean already know. And the stakes are so much higher now. Regardless of Gov. Scott’s ban, climate change is real.
Along with bad tourists and bad politicians, Floridians have always had bad storms. So I am hoping for the best, but my expectations are higher, too. If every year brings new and more devastating storms, we have to fight back that much harder against the politics that are putting us in more and more danger. The solidarity that will be necessary to rebuild after this season’s storms will also be needed to organize for radical change.