Southern fried opinions

Recently, my wife and I visited friends in Florida. We traversed the Sunshine State about half way down the peninsula from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Shores. No, we are not ”snowbirds” (but we encountered many of them).

Reading the local daily newspapers there, I was drawn to the ”Opinion Page” and immersed myself in the editorials, of course. The old saying by Tip O’Neill claims that ”all politics is local.” Perhaps, an addendum to that could be, ”and all local politics are universal.”

For example, a special congressional election was being contested in the western counties, and, like here, the battle lines were drawn between the blue flag of the liberals and the red banner of the conservatives. Health care, education, immigration, and lobbyists were all ”hot button” issues, and the focus was the allegiance of one candidate to the Tea Party and the other to Nancy Pelosi. Both candidates proclaimed why voters should fear the other candidate more than what she or he believed. Fear seemed to be the dominant issue, though unnamed.

Another local conflict regarded the use of traffic cameras to ”nab” drivers who ignore red lights. One editorial writer learned that the company which manufactured and installed the devices contributed huge sums of money to local politicians, who then voted to keep the cameras, despite public outcry against them. When the council of the jurisdiction finally succumbed to the will of the electorate to remove the electronic eyes, it was decided that it would take at least six months to do that. Thus, tickets would have to be issued (and revenue would keep pouring in to public coffers and private pockets) until November at the earliest.

Greedy politicos collecting corporate cash . . . that is nothing like us, is it?

The State of Florida’s Department of Education was being assailed for its love affair with the Common Core Standards and the abuses of standardized test scores. That department was also accused of being too cozy with charter schools to the detriment of public schools. One editorialist attacked the new evaluation method as unfair to the teachers in the state.

Please, stop me when reading something which differs from Northeast Ohio.

You would think that comments about the weather would be different, but it wasn’t warm enough down there either. The winter storms that caused us grief have made Floridians’ lives chillier as well since they catch the southern trough of the same weather systems. Most of them do not understand why winter storms need names too. ”Electra” ”Hercules” ”Titan” . . . do these names suggest that we should fear the weather too? As a result, ”it’s all Greek to me” . . . or Floridian, at least.

One commentary argued for more transparency in local government. In the ”Sunshine State,” there is a similar statute to the one we have in Ohio called the ”Sunshine Law.” Hypothetically, if a governmental entity takes on a new project and boasts that it will cost less than a million dollars, but then the public learns through the media that a loan has been sought for nearly three million, the lack of transparency leads to rumors that the total bill might be four million.

It sounds like home to me.

So, whether it is a question of endangering species like manatee or endangering the earth by fracking, the opposing views use fear more than fact to lure us. Are we that fearful of opposition to our own views?

Whether north or south, or east or west, the simple words of a humble carpenter are often lost in the din. Yet, his message that challenges us to, ”Be not afraid” rings out over all ages and in all seasons.

Williams is a Hubbard resident. Email him at