Living in Intolerance

There are many discussions about the current social and political climate in Florida. I will clearly state that these issues are not political, they are basic humanity.

If you are not comfortable visiting Florida,
please don’t.

If you are conflicted about attending business events in Florida, congratulations you are human. If you are not attending, I ask you to be vocal about it. Make companies and people aware of the reasons. It might seem trite, but if you don’t make people aware there is little chance of it changing.

If you are attending, also make sure to make people aware of your discomfort. This request applies double to restaurants and hotels. Making sure that people understand the impact policies have on their business and wallet is a key item. It is also perfectly acceptable and understandable if one must attend because of business requirements.

We all must take part in this process. These issues will not be solved by shying away from them. Expecting things to change without putting in any effort is like waiting for a ship at the airport. To quote Mother Teresa, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” At the end of this missive are suggestions for how to create ripples.

Megan Dutta at rAVe [PUBS], reached out and asked me for comments about the current situation in Florida and InfoComm 2023. I responded, “If I didn’t live less than ten miles from InfoComm 2023, I would not attend, but I will be there with my LGBTQI+ ally pin on. I support people who decided not to come to Florida. Living here, I am embarrassed and frustrated; Florida’s current administration views are abhorrent to me. Both personally and professionally, the intolerance has impacted me. A large amount of my work history is theme park-based; it is the reason I decided to stay in Florida after being laid off in November of 2020. At the time Disney, had just announced its Lake Nona campus. DeSantis’s attacks on Disney and human rights will financially impact me. The financial issue is secondary to the human impact. Please stay away and be vocal about why. No change ever came from people satisfied with the status quo.”

After I sent this response to Megan, I continued to think about the situation, and I continued to get angry. There are so many more issues than just the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”, there are the attacks on women’s rights, there is the removal of history from school, there are book bans, there is the damage being done to education … etc. The more I thought the angrier I am about it.
I have been thinking about this topic for a few months; I hesitated as so concerned about writing perfectly that I kept stumbling. No matter what I do, there is always the chance of unintended consequences or saying something wrong. I have done many stupid things in my 50+ years. I am embarrassed by them almost daily, but they are my mistakes and missteps to own. I apologize when I can and try to do better. Acting against this intolerance is more important and hopefully people will see past missteps.
Yes, I am embarrassed by the state I live in. The decision to stay was the appropriate decisions based on the information at the time. It was not a decision made lightly as I was determining what the next step was after being laid off due to COVID. I consulted my financial & business advisors, colleagues in the AV industry, family members, and friends. The financial situational constraints from that decision are also what keeps me here. I can list all the political and retaliatory actions made by the current administration of Florida. Beyond the issue with Disney moving cancelling their Lake Nona campus, the battle to abolish the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) also impacts me. RCID basically borders the development where I live.
For those that are not familiar with it, RCID was created in 1967 to support the creation of Walt Disney World. The local governments did not have the services to support developing a 25,000-acre project. From RCID’s charter, “The District is responsible to oversee land use and environmental protections within the District, and provide essential public services (e.g. fire protection, emergency medical services, potable water production, treatment, storage, pumping & distribution, reclaimed water distribution, chilled water systems, wastewater services, drainage and flood control, electric power generation & distribution, and solid waste and recyclables collection & disposal) and operate and maintain all public roadways & bridges.”
Transferring that burden to the local government places the burden on the local community. Disney also saves US$145 Million in taxes. Having a petulant state administration deciding to make these decisions in a retaliatory move is downright angering to put it mildly.

These acts of oppression and fear are not unfamiliar to me. Two weeks after I was born there were race riots about five miles from my house, . As I was growing up, I saw the scars of the riots for over two decades. It was not taught in school. It was not talked about. It was simply, “Asbury Park is still recovering.”

I clearly remember my white grandmother would always dance with my grandfather’s coworker Ace at the Officer’s Club at Fort Monmouth. People would become aghast at a white woman dancing with a black man. My grandfather would simply reply, “they are having a good time and Ace is my friend, why would that be a problem?” I did not understand the reason that some would see this situation as a problem. To this day, I still don’t

The Stonewall Riots occurred in New York the year before I was born. I remember there being stories about it in the news, but not knowing the history. Once again something that was not talked about but that had an impact during my youth. I did not learn about the actual incidents until I was in college and was mixing audio at a bar called “The Stonewall” in homage to the one in New York City. It was simply not discussed or taught in history classes.

I am a member of the artistic and creative communities and industries and have been for decades. I lived through the AIDS crisis and saw the hate it brought out in people. Seeing my friends during college being harassed and persecuted because of their sexual preferences and orientation was heartbreaking. Being harassed because I was a theater major and had a gay roommate was not unexpected. My roommate and I asked our gay friend to move in because of the intolerance of his dormitory residents. It was what we could do at the time.

Being of Jewish heritage, I knew and know many people who are Holocaust survivors. Seeing numbers on people’s arms leaves an unending impact. One would hope that as a society we had moved on from that. We all know that is not true as religious intolerance still occurs and is very visible. I did not realize how much so until I was living in South Bend, IN and working for a company that had required weekly prayer meetings until late 2000 was quite awkward. There were many issues around diversity. A small example is that I would ask at meal events what items had pork in them, people were amazed. Often, people would not answer or scoff. Watching the same people happily answering questions about peanuts and other allergens clearly sent a message. Instead, I was told, “How can you not like pork? Try it you will like it.”

I have felt the intolerance personally through these experiences. Yes, I am a white male so things are much easier than they could be. That does not preclude me from empathy having experienced just a small portion of what others face.

I had hoped that most of these things are in the past. Unfortunately, as we know, they are not. My situation is not unique, in fact it is rather mild. There are many others who have been impacted in more profound ways.

To me it is important to make the world better. It is not a simple thing to do. It takes effort each day. I also readily understand that not everyone is in a situation to be vocal or active with this process. I act and speak not just for myself but also for those that cannot.

Not all actions need to be dramatic, one can wear an LBGTQI+ Ally pin so that others know that they are accepted. Simply speaking up when people are being stupid is amazingly power. It does not need to be in the moment. It could be simply documenting the situation. Simply sitting with someone quietly so that they are not alone is an amazing act of kindness. One doesn’t need to say anything, just ask if it is okay to sit with them.

Below are a few suggestions of what you can do to help:

  • Some people buy carbon offsets to lessen the impact of their travel on the environment. Do the same thing but for intolerance offsets. There are many options, but I recommend considering or
  • Show your Pride. June is Pride Month, wear a rainbow. I will have Ally pins with me if you need one. They go with every outfit.
  • When paying for something, leave a calling card behind to make sure that the business knows that you care about how people are treated. I will have some if you need some.

I am sure that this post will annoy some people, others will agree. If I lose a few followers and clients as a result, no regrets at all. There are companies and people that I no longer interact with because of their actions and attitudes. It would be unrealistic to expect that others do not do the same.

I leave you with two quotes::

“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed,
it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead

“How wonderful is it that nobody need wait a single moment
before starting to improve the world.”
Anne Frank

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.

June 1, 2023