Journalist TD Allman on Finding Florida: "Florida Is America Right Now"
Forget everything you think you know about the history of our sunny state -- 'cause it's all a bunch of bullsh*t. What lies beneath the pristine beaches, sweeping mansions, and roller coasters is a whole lot darker. That's the premise behind former journalist and author TD Allman's new book, Finding Florida.
"It is the first objective history of Florida. Every other one, you can go look at them, they're either all propaganda for racism or to come down for the sun -- everything's wonderful here. I just tell the truth about Florida. It's a fascinating story," Allman says.
The author, known for his blunt objectivity, spent almost a decade researching the ins and outs of Florida history to write the 528-page tome.
Allman's Miami: City of the Future, originally published in the '80s, is still considered a definitive look at the Magic City. It's set to be re-released later this year with a new foreword by the author, who's also written about Florida for Esquire and National Geographic.
"Basically it was something I originally wrote for a magazine article in Esquire. Then I wrote a book on Miami for the simple reason that everybody else willfully got everything wrong about Miami. They were saying it was paradise lost, not part of America anymore. But all the things that people complained about were what made it so American -- the immigration, the contraband, the craziness of the place."
So what will people find surprising about the rest of Florida's history? Almost everything, according to Allman. The truth behind Florida's shiny facade is pretty grisly, from the slaughter of Seminoles near Apalachicola to the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
"We're always had three tiers of justice in Florida. You can kill a black man and it doesn't matter but if it's a lower class white like Zimmerman you might get punished, if you're an upper class white person you'd get off scot free."
In addition to the bloodshed, leaders throughout history strove to control Florida, only to learn that it was devoid of natural resources, Allman writes. Florida doesn't produce wealth, it consumes it. And this is true to the present day.
"Florida, as America increasingly has, has always been built on the dissipation, not the creation of wealth. Flagler, Rick Scott - they all arrived rich and they think they're going to do great things here and eventually they're going to end up poor or less rich than they were. Florida is the consumer's capital; it's consuming capital from other parts of the country as the U.S. is with the world."
In the long run, Allman says, what happens in Florida is a window into the rest of America. So maybe we're not as weird as people think. Just a whole lot more disturbed.
"It is a book about America. The conventional wisdom, which is again wrong, is that Florida is this crazy nutty place that doesn't have much to do with the rest of the country. Florida is America right now."
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