|A Novel Truth|
|Written by Gaspar González - BT Contributor|
A new satire of political dysfunction hits close to home
With Election Day fast approaching, I’m inspired to recommend a read suitable to the season. It’s a new book titled The Big Split: A Novel of the Near Future, and it tells the story of what happens when Red State and Blue State America finally decide to call it quits and go their separate ways -- one person at a time.
It opens in fictional Cane County, somewhere in south-central Florida. Once a hub of sugar production, Cane converted its farmlands into residential developments during the real estate boom, then watched the boom go bust. Now, stuck with acres of empty homes, the area is in desperate need of a miracle.
What it gets instead is a proposal from Clay Condrey, a developer and county commissioner, to turn the county into an “open carry” jurisdiction. Or as he explains to his fellow commissioners: “I have written here a prospective ordinance… ‘We the people of Cane County, in order to assure a more perfect exercise of our Constitutional rights, declare that from this day forward it is lawful for any resident of the county or person visiting our county -- not a convicted felon and not having been judged mentally incompetent -- to openly carry and display small arms in public anywhere within the county limits.’”
The ordinance passes and, seemingly overnight, Cane becomes a magnet for pistol packers from all over the nation. They’re soon followed by the adherents of such right-wing groups as the provocatively acronymed APART (Association for the Preservation of Political and Religious Traditions).
This new influx of righties into Cane County becomes a national story, one that gives a California real estate agent named Schuyler LaScala an idea:
“Since so few people are willing to sell their homes at today’s lower prices, but still are desperate to escape the distasteful politics of the states where they live,” he explains to his girlfriend, “we need to begin a new service where we arrange for people to swap dwellings. You own a 3/2 ranch with a pool and central air in California surrounded by dope-addled former hippies who irritate the hell out of you and you would rather live in Florida, where you can legally carry a machine gun in the supermarket, then we find somebody in Florida with a 3/2 who wants to move west....”
And with that, “the big split” is on. Soon, LaScala, founder of Destiny Real Estate (“Arrive at your Destiny, not just your destination”), is making a killing sorting Americans into ideologically like-minded communities from coast-to-coast -- and hoping the whole scheme doesn’t devolve into a second Civil War.
Eventually the cast of characters comes to include Gator Depp, a Florida legislator who fancies himself the next Jefferson Davis; TV preacher Victor Creed, recast as the Moses of what comes to be called the Mass Migration; and Supreme Court Justice Harold Pucci, a champion of “original intent,” who knows the expression is just a cover for conservatives pushing their agenda.
If the book sounds like it hits a little too close to home in today’s America, it should. The author, a friend of mine, is C.C. Radoff, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who’s covered political shenanigans for decades. (C.C. Radoff is a nom de plume.)
As a result, The Big Split is deliciously wicked satire, made all the more so by the fact that its craziest propositions aren’t, well, so crazy. (TV news channels devoted to reinforcing ideologically slanted versions of reality? We have that already.)
But there’s a reason Biscayne Park readers, in particular, might find the book entertaining in a moment of hey-that’s-how-we-do-it recognition. It has to do with the commission meeting where Clay Condrey introduces his “open carry” ordinance. As Radoff writes, “there were no more than 15 vehicles [in the parking lot]… that meant more county officials would probably be in attendance than members of the public.” Given the typically paltry turnout, all that was needed to jam through the ordinance was to round up “some of the biggest gun enthusiasts in the county, [and] also some of the most energetic clappers.”
Sparsely attended commission meetings? A small group of residents exercising an outsized influence on the political process because no one else bothers to show up? Sound familiar?
Now, I’m not suggesting our village commission would ever allow open gun toting. Then again, some of our commissioners have been known to entertain pretty novel ideas (no pun intended).
Take legislation, seemingly creeping its way to a vote, that would compel homeowners to keep their boats and RVs hidden from view, or alternately, out of Biscayne Park altogether. Or the ordinance -- a version of which has already been authored by our village attorney, but has yet to be introduced -- that seeks to hinder the distribution of printed material throughout the village, including the publication you’re holding in your hands. Or the proposal, currently in the exploration stage, to dramatically expand the size of Biscayne Park, possibly by annexing the neighborhood east of the Florida East Coast Railway track. (Read that last one again. I’ll wait.)
None of these proposals is exactly “open carry,” granted, but they do share some characteristics. For one thing, like a lot of initiatives in the village, they don’t get discussed much outside the monthly commission meetings -- at least, until the commissioners have made up their minds, and then it’s too late. For another, they have the potential to be divisive, needlessly so. Why are boats a nuisance all of a sudden? Why should it be made more difficult for residents who enjoy the BT to receive it?
To channel a certain vice-president: Come on, folks. Village politics often may seem like just so much foolishness, but the commission’s decisions affect us all. Which means a lot more of us need to pay attention. If we don’t, we may find ourselves living in a community we’re not particularly crazy about, wondering how it got that way.
I can’t say it any plainer than that, which probably means it’s a good place to wrap up this final column. That’s right -- I’m leaving the village beat to plumb the wider world of South Florida media, sports, and culture. (For those who despair at the thought of Biscayne Park getting short shrift in these pages, fret not. I’m sure we’ll figure out something.) Look for new contributions from me in future issues of the BT.
And check out C.C. Radoff’s The Big Split: A Novel of the Near Future ($2.99), available in Kindle, Nook, and iBook editions through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Thanks for reading these past couple of years.
Volume 14, Issue 2, April 2016
Downtown Miami’s Cultural Center keeps its eye on the arts