Today’s WTF: Boycotting Florida because of “Stand Your Ground”?

In an article by Andrew Burmon on the Huffington Post site, a plea is made for travelers to think about avoiding Florida as a vacation destination. The author argues that the “Stand Your Ground” law, which has been scrutinized and criticized in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting, poses a treat to the safety of tourists. Therefore, he reasons, it makes sense for tourists to stay away from Florida for their own good, not to mention the economic pressure this would place on legislators to reconsider or rescind the law.

Being a Florida resident, and having relatives and friends whose livelihoods depend heavily on the hospitality and travel industries, I am taken aback by this just a bit. I am solidly behind those who want the “Stand Your Ground” law scrubbed. It is a nonsensical piece of legislation, and it is an unwelcome remnant of the Jeb Bush era which we would be much better off without.

However, this “boycott Florida” concept seems to be rooted in the increasing media hysteria that has sprung up around the Trayvon Martin case. It is the same hysteria that has allowed TV networks and programs, which should all know better, to give people like Joe Oliver and Robert Zimmerman national platforms from which to peddle their own opinions and accusations, while calling it “news”.  It’s the same hysteria which causes media vultures to try digging up “incriminating” photos or posts from Trayvon Martin’s Facebook and Twitter pages. It is the same hysteria that led film director Spike Lee to tweet an address, which was he thought was that of George Zimmerman, to his 250,000+ followers. The frenzy to appropriate anything Trayvon-related has, in some ways, shifted the media’s focus away from reporting and ensuring public awareness of the case, and more toward Jerry Springer-style sensationalism.

Burmon’s article is another by-product of this whole atmosphere, where even a travel writer feels he must find a Trayvon angle to incorporate into his post. You get a feel for this sensationalism from the very first words you see –  the headline is patently ludicrous in its overwrought assertion that “Travelers Can Save The Next Trayvon Martin By Avoiding Florida”. But to present the “Stand Your Ground” law as a valid reason for tourists to avoid a trip to Florida is stretching a premise far beyond the point of logic. To begin with, the “Stand Your Ground” law doesn’t actually apply to the case of Trayvon Martin. It states that you do not need to retreat if you are attacked, and that the use of force against your attacker (including deadly force) is justified if you feel that you are in danger of death or great bodily harm. George Zimmerman was not being attacked, nor was he in any sort of danger, while he was in his car, calling local police out to his neighborhood. He put himself in danger by leaving his vehicle to pursue Trayvon. At that point, “Stand Your Ground” became a moot point in this particular case.

Still, the fact that “Stand Your Ground” was brought up as a possible defense for Zimmerman when the case first made national headlines is the reason that this law became a focal talking point. People across the nation are certainly within their rights to debate and decry this law, as many in Florida (including some of those who originally supported the measure) are already doing. The article, however, suggests that people should go beyond debate, and should instead exert pressure on Florida’s lawmakers by withholding or redirecting tourism dollars from Florida.

In reality, a tourism boycott of Florida would probably have very little effect in shaping the state’s debate about “Stand Your Ground”. The population of Florida is comprised of a great many gun owners and  2nd Amendment activists.The degree to which guns are an integral part of many people’s lives and lifestyles here cannot be overstated. And the state legislature is keenly aware of this. At the end of the day, tourists can’t remove these lawmakers from office. Their continued political careers are ensured more by the public’s votes and the support of the NRA and other gun industry lobbyists than by families from Ohio who decide to spend their week off in Georgia instead of Florida.

This leads to another point, which is the innate silliness of tourists “protecting” themselves by avoiding Florida. If that family from Ohio wants to avoid states with laws like “Stand Your Ground”, then Georgia wouldn’t be an option either. In fact, they’d need to cross 25 states off their list of possible destinations, and probably eliminate another 9 where expanded “castle doctrine” laws exist (allowing  people to “shoot first” in self-defense in other areas outside the home, such as vehicles and places of business), plus 7 more states where similar legislation is currently pending. So, the odds are that they won’t have too many choices left for their vacation planning. Even more importantly, most Americans are already living in a state where laws like these exist, or are pending  (yup, that includes our hypothetical family from Ohio).

When it comes right down to it, Florida is as good a place as any to visit if you’re a tourist. Despite the conservative bent of many who live here, the most popular tourist destinations (Disney World, Miami Beach, the Florida Keys and Fort Lauderdale) are very diverse and inclusive, with room for different cultures, colors and sexual orientations. The specific areas where most tourists spend their time are not the redneck towns where they would run a significant risk of encountering an armed George Zimmerman type. And the gun laws we have here might be fairly similar to the ones where you live right now. So, we all should do what we can to make sure that such laws are brought out into the light to be discussed and, hopefully, revised or rescinded. Here in Florida, even our gun-loving population, jolted by the death of
Trayvon Martin, has begun that very discussion already. But we should recognize that this sort of work might also be needed in many places other than Florida – including, possibly, your own backyard.


8 thoughts on “Today’s WTF: Boycotting Florida because of “Stand Your Ground”?

  1. A good point, well stated. In further support of Floridians who rely on tourism, as well as the pleasure of tourists from all over the world, I’d like to mention a few other worthwhile destinations; Ft. Myers, Sarasota, Tampa and St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Panama City and Pensacola. Florida has TWO coasts and each side of the state offers equally attractive but different experiences. Y’all come on down, now. Ya hear?

  2. I’m pretty confident you will not see a dip in tourism. Florida has too many attractions that is not available anywhere else in the country – at least not at the magnitude that Florida offers. Disneyworld (sure there’s Disneyland but hardly a comparison) plus all the other parks that go with it; all the air space centers, the beaches – especially in the winter, the Key’s, and so on and so on.

    He does make a very valid point, however. I would definitely be much more cautious, too. But Florida isn’t the only state with this law – but is a state which is upholding it in a incident they shouldn’t be.

  3. Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat.Com™ and commented:
    I disagree with the concept that boycotting Florida is a mistake or counter-productive. Boycotting a state that has declared open season on people who wear hoodies or are of a darker skin color than the caucasian establishment is a great idea. As was the case with Arizona when they passed the “Papers Please Law”…hit ’em where it hurt most, pocketbook. If Florida wants tourist dollars, stop killing humans and declaring it “self defense”.

    • I respect your point of view, and obviously since I live here my thoughts are coming from a different place.

      The first problem I had with the Huffington Post article was mainly that it seems to be a half-assed attempt to jump on a media bandwagon. If you read it, you can probably see that it’s not a particularly well-thought out piece. I don’t like knee-jerk reactions to stuff, and that’s what this guy’s article appeared to be in my estimation. Just sloppy writing meant to capitalize on an issue that already has the public’s attention.

      Also, as I found when looking into it a bit further, many of the people who would boycott Florida probably live in places with similar laws. They’re supporting those states with their tax dollars and their disposable income every single day. So my point was, it’s not gonna help all that much to single Florida out. If you really don’t want to travel here and spend money, then don’t, but remember that even by staying home, or vacationing in a lot of other states, you still might be supporting laws that are just as heinous. Unless you do something about the 24 other states that also have this sort of thing, you’re not effectively addressing the overall issues of loose gun laws, powerful gun lobbyists and bought & paid for legislators, all of which are the root problem here.

      The boycott thing is always something that gets noticed, so in terms of drawing attention to a cause, it does have the potential to do that. But they are not always effective at accomplishing their stated goals. Rush Limbaugh and Clear Channel are still riding high, despite all the noise about the advertisers he lost after the Sandra Fluke thing. And the Arizona boycott you brought up didn’t do anything to affect the passage of that godawful law. The only reason it’s not being enforced today is due to a court injunction. They lost money, no doubt about it, but they didn’t give a shit. And my suspicion is that Florida would be the same way. A lot of folks who need the work that exists in the hospitality industry might suffer, but the state legislature would keep on keepin’ on due to the influence of the NRA and that whole crew of gun-crazy organizations.

      I think that, if we address the Trayvon Martin case in particular, or Stand Your Ground in general, strictly as a racial issue, we’re ignoring some other very important factors that are at play in this case. The fact that the gun industry could buy a politician like Jeb Bush, and get the Stand Your Ground law passed, is a crime against democracy and it affects everyone who lives in this state, regardless of race. It basically degrades the value of human life, and says that the right to live in a relatively safe and peaceful environment is secondary to the right to carry a firearm. It’s a big, fat middle finger to reasonable people who think that it’s insane to have such widespread freedom in obtaining, carrying and using weapons. It gives gun owners a free pass to be more reckless than they might be otherwise, just as George Zimmerman probably was that night, and it is a disgrace.

      Again, I respect your position, and I appreciate that you commented. I also know from your posts that you’re a thoughtful person, and that what you have to say is not coming from the same place as the knee-jerk BS that the HuffPo guy was writing, so I appreciate that as well. Sorry for the long-winded reply but I think you deserve something that’s properly thought out and explained. And now I’m gonna shut up. 🙂

      • I stopped reading anything huffpost weeks ago. I don’t even reference huffpost in my stuff.

        I live in Florida. Venice, Florida, and I know first hand of the injustice to Black people, experienced it first hand back in the late 90’s.

        I understand your mindset as well.

        Enjoy your weekend…and keep writing.

  4. A former Floridian with lots of family still there, I can tell you that I seriously doubt any campaigns like this are going to make any significant dent in state tourism. However just the fact that something like this is being talked about in national circles may at least capture the attention of state legislators.

  5. We will shut this mother down, along with the other states who have this backward ass law. It’s catching like wild fire, they may not suffer a huge loss now but it will sure hurt them in some shape or fashion.California has similar attractions to Florida without the possibilities of hurricanes rather vacation there any time and hawaii

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