From the Editor

John Turner

This past week I tried to get a stronger sense of what Florida is about by driving to Sebring, a city with a reputation for extracting money from people who are waiting to expire, and are determined to experience no inconvenience or discomfort in the process. I can't say the reputation is deserved but while walking through a couple of shopping malls along Route 27 I saw nothing to disprove it.

The commercial strip down U.S. 27 in the vicinity of Sebring extends for about fifteen miles. It could serve well as a study in a casebook for hideous overdevelopment. One can argue, I suppose, for unrestrained capitalism but I don't know how anyone could claim it supports an aesthetic environment. We have in this country a constricted notion of freedom. There are lots of people who will insist there should be few or no controls on ways to make money. But these same champions of freedom have virtually no sympathy for those who want to be free of the public ugliness some forms of capitalism impose.

While I was in Sebring I went to see Borat, the film about a supposed TV reporter from Kazakhstan who is touring America. It wasn't as consistently funny as I expected, mainly because too much of the interview format was sacrificed to the plot of the movie. It did, however, have hilarious moments and some of the audience in the sparsely populated theatre laughed so hard they nearly fell out of their seats. Borat has become a source of contention here in Florida. I've noticed that the people who profess to be disgusted by him are precisely the types he seeks out for interviews and gets to make astoundingly bigoted remarks.

Those of you who glance at my essay in this week's From Liberty Street may  conclude that I'm obsessed with the theme that decent politics require a better general education than we have right now. You may be right. Even so, I continue to believe that ideas have no chance to take hold unless they are repeated often and in a variety of forms. So at the risk of boring you I may continue to raise the issue from time to time.

P.S. My daughter's little dog, whom I mentioned here last week, died of the injuries he received when he was attacked by pit bulls, who broke out of a construction site they were supposed to be guarding.

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Harvard Square Commentary, November 20, 2006