Don't Be Like "Florida Man"
Make no friends with those given to anger, and do not associate with
--Proverbs 22:24 NRSV
Are you familiar with "Florida Man?" This internet meme is a guilty
pleasure of mine. It's been around since 2013 when somebody on the internet
noticed the outrageous news stories coming out of Florida with headlines
that always began with the words "Florida Man." If you want an idea of the
phenomenon, just google the words "Florida Man" and see what comes up.
Recent "Florida Man" headlines include:
"Florida man accused of climbing onto semi in traffic during road rage
"Florida Man Arrested for Cashing in Lottery Ticket at Gas Station He Stole
It From, Cops Say"
"Florida man arrested after living in luxury suites in pro soccer stadium."
You get the idea.
Dave Barry likes to joke that the wackiest people in America all roll down
into Florida. The Florida Man phenomenon got so bad that the humorist wrote
a book called "Best State Ever: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland." Barry
isn't the only one whose made a living poking fun at their home state,
satirist Carl Hiaasen has another novel out right now about the over the top
events in Florida.
To be fair, I'm told there are plenty of law-abiding and normal people who
live in Florida. Also, the reason the whole Florida Man thing is a guilty
pleasure for me is because most of the wildest headlines are people with
real problems. If you look beyond the headlines, the stories are often sad
ones. An article in Columbia Journalism Review pointed out the Florida Man
phenomenon is "one of journalism's darkest and most lucrative cottage
industries" where "stories tend to stand as exemplars of the mythical
hyper-weirdness of the Sunshine State, but more often simply document the
travails of the drug-addicted, mentally ill, and homeless." This raises the
question if there could just as easily be a "Missouri Man" or "Kansas Man"
phenomenon as well. If journalists were to frame the stories of
drug-addicted, mentally ill, and homeless people in our two states in
similar ways, we could have our own internet memes too.
Recently, I've noticed a change in Florida Man stories that are probably
true of Missouri Man and Kansas Man too-not to mention Missouri Woman and
Kansas Woman. The stress of COVID-19 combined with an election season has
provided plenty of opportunities for wild and wacky headlines. Here are a
"Florida man accuses of threatening grocery store employee with ax after
being told to wear a mask"
"Florida man accused of firing shots inside Miami Beach hotel lobby over
"Florida man accused of punching neighbor over Biden campaign sign: police"
I'm pretty sure you could find similar stories in Missouri, Kansas and all
over the country.
It's a tough time with more reasons than normal to be upset and to react
badly. As I scan this weeks headlines as college students are back in
school and elementary through high school students soon to start back one
way or another, I see lots of upset people on all sides of what to do about
COVID-19. I also see plenty of conflict over politics on social media. I
certainly admit that there are legitimate injustices in our society that are
worth getting upset about, but I'm also pretty sure that most of us need to
just calm down and take some deep breaths.
The book of Proverbs in the Bible has a lot to say about anger. I know
sometimes these Bible verses can oversimplify complex things. Sometimes
anger can be a healthy thing when we are mistreated, oppressed or abused.
Anger can be a means of claiming one's own power. The kind of anger I think
Proverbs is generally talking about is one that is destructive in all the
wrong ways. This is the kind of anger that sensible people have to
apologize for after they calm down-you know the kind of anger that happens
when a teenager working in a drive through messes up your order and you then
take it out on your kids. Not that I know anything about that from
Proverbs 22:24 says, "Make no friends with those given to anger, and do not
associate with hotheads." What? If I followed that advice, I'd have to
stop watching the outrage machine on cable news. If I didn't associate with
hotheads, I'd have to un-friend all my "friends" on social media-and they'd
have to un-friend me as well. If I backed away from people who are "given
to anger," I'd have to socially distance myself from most everyone in our
culture. Oh wait. . .
Don't be the Florida Man or Missouri/Kansas Man or Missouri/Kansas Woman.
Step back from your computer keyboard or smart phone before you fire off
that reply to somebody with whom you disagree. Turn off the news when you
find your blood boiling. Take a deep breath and count to ten when you are
about to lose control over a person not wearing a mask at the super market
or depending on your point of view, when you are about to lose control
because a minimum wage employee asks you to wear a mask when you enter a
Do whatever you need to do to calm down and chill out.
Ask yourself if this is really worth getting angry about?
Ask yourself if your anger really accomplishes something or if it is just
self-indulgent bad manners?
Don't be a headline-although if you do, make sure it's funny, because I need
a good laugh.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
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