OPINION: We, The Imperial, Pious and Pristine Florida Senate – We Hypocrites All

The Hurlburt Field Honor Guard presents "the colors" during a ceremony at the Florida Capitol building in Tallahassee, Fla., Sept. 19, 2011. State senator Don Gaetz's nomination for senate president-designate for the 2012-2014 term was announced at the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Caitlin O'Neil-McKeown) (RELEASED)

It must have been a rough week for the Florida Senate. One of their own misbehaved so badly and in such a public way that the guardians of the institution were forced to expel him. To be more accurate, the guardians were ready to do so, but they shamed a former US Marine into submission instead. This must be what happens when term limits force the upper chamber to admit too many members from the unwashed, lower House chamber.    

What was this behavior that stood out as so bad, so disruptive, so heinous that Senators themselves felt they knew better than the people of District 40 to determine the fate of their duly elected colleague? What law did this man violate, what crime did this man commit, what sin did he visit upon another human being? Bad actors are not new to elected office in Florida – or anywhere else – this crime must have been exceptional. Spoiler alert: Senator Frank Artilles called people names. While they may have been horrible, nasty, despicable and disgusting names, really – that’s what he did, he called people names, and that’s all that he did. But mind you, these were not just people; they were Senators.

It’s funny what happens to some people when you give them power, a title, and some authority. Especially when you call someone a Senator. They start acting like a Senator. Google Roman Senate and read if you don’t quite get the implication of this statement. It’s not exactly a compliment. Apparently, Senators believe they are special and cannot be referred to by their fellow men in derogatory terms, because, well, they are Senators.

For the political correct crowd, it’s easy to argue that Artilles deserved to be canned. It This type of bullying retribution for behavior the left abhors is the exact behavior for which the this short-sighted, PC crowd is known.  Tolerance, unless the idea or comments are against us.   For Senators, perhaps it’s such hypocrisy is even easier and to do so by hiding behind the “integrity of the institution” argument.  Especially since by many accounts, Artilles didn’t truly fit in with the gentile, blue-blood crowd of the elevated chamber. Clearly, enough Senators believe that because there is no bad behavior in the Florida Senate, the institution must protect itself, from the likes of Frank Artilles.  

Candidly, there are many in Tallahassee that refer to Artilles as a bully and a bit of an ass.  Of course, it must be noted that he serves in an institution where kissing ass seems to be a more important attribute than the ability to kick it. But what one might also wish to consider is that the approach of condemning a man for using the “N” word is merely a full acceptance and acknowledgment of the cowardess of white people. Especially white men and more especially white, male Senators – all buying into the arguments of political correctness because it is much, much easier than to defend speech, especially speech one abhors.  Perhaps the “P” word Artilles used is an apt description of many of these Senators after all – if all they can do, when a colleague loses his cool and says things that he may (or may not) regret, is jump on the bandwagon of the left’s PC police and condemn the sin and the sinner.

The fact that Artilles never aimed the “N” word at a black person is irrelevant (and doesn’t excuse his use of it), but it does appear his targeted use of the “P” word, may well have caused his demise since it was the leader of the Senate who ultimately used the PC police to punish his accuser.   If this is the case, then the leader of the Senate may simply have confirmed the allegation by doing nothing little over the “N” but pushing harder to admonish once the target of the “P” was revealed.   

The USA Herald stands proudly against racism in any form.   And yet we stand just as proudly with the rights of free speech in America.    Our opposition to racism is simple:  Let this editorial board take a bold stand against racism once and for all; it is useless in today’s society, inefficient, stupid, expensive, outdated and just plain wrong. But let us be bolder than just condemnation – let us also stand opposed to racism by blacks against blacks and blacks against whites in the same way we stand against white on black racism. You see, racism should be as blind as justice – in that it should not distinguish between the color of the perpetrators or the victims, but judge merely the acts of all.   

If the “N” word is such a disgusting word, one that should find Voldemort status, then the word should be banned from the lexicon of African Americans immediately. You cannot use a word against your people and condemn others for using that same word. Such is hypocrisy in its simplest form. If the word hurts as bad as it seems, as bad as it must, then why on earth would those it hurts ever use it themselves, in songs, in slang and especially in anger?  

Will black leaders stand together and condemn those in their community who use this word as vociferously as they condemn white or Hispanic people who use it?   That is what is necessary for this word’s use to stop.  That is exactly what we believe must be done to end its use forever.   

Until Black leaders stand united in opposition to anyone’s use of the “N” word, here is our proposal for handling the likes of Frank Artilles.  Let’s bring the Artilles crime before the full Senate and let him stand before a jury of his peers, fellow Senators, and be accused. Perhaps even try him in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice – the same Code that applies to Marines. But before we begin the trial, we must first select a jury of Senators from a pool of 39 (38 in this Senate’s case). Let us allow the lawyers for Senator Artilles to ask a few qualifying questions of the behavior of the Senators before they can be seated as Jurors – all of which involves the integrity and character of the Florida Senate (which is the very point of this trial after all):    

  1. Have you ever had an extramarital affair, and have you ever had an affair with another Senator since being elected to the Senate and did that affair affect any of the Senate’s business?   
  2. Have you ever driven while intoxicated or smoked marijuana since you were elected to the Senate?
  3. Have you ever, since being elected to the Senate, used the “N” word, or the “P” word or any other mean, vulgar term in a private conversation with a peer or peers?
  4. Have you ever considered a contribution or contributor before making a vote or ever discussed a contribution in a state building?  

Those remaining who have answered “NO” to all of these questions may serve as the judges and jury for Frank Artilles and those without sin may cast the first stone.

Some of these deeds in question are illegal, some of them are simply immoral. Regardless, it is not our place to judge the members of the Florida Senate, but if they take it upon themselves to judge their peers and place their opinions over the voters’ decisions when that peer merely makes a bold or disgusting reference to another Senator, then all Senators should be ready to be judged by the same standards.  

One may well think these listed items are not as bad as calling a peer the “N” word. Ask a wife or husband if she or he would rather have her husband commit adultery or use the “N” word? Ask a parent if they would rather have their child drink and drive or use the “N” word?  

We also understand that many of those in the Senate would acknowledge that it was the public manner in which the Senator committed this act that made the “crime” so objectionable. Let’s be honest; it was not public, it was at a private club in a private conversation, after hours, and not on state property. So, the same standard of privacy and venue should apply to other behaviors of the elected Senators in Florida. That one of the conversation’s participants leaked the conversation to a reporter tells you even more about the character of the Florida Senate. They selectively leak the misdeeds of one another, but apparently, only with the Senators they don’t like.

Don’t misunderstand this commentary; we are not defending Frank Artilles, that is his job and that of his very capable lawyers. We agree there is no place for racism in America and certainly no place for it in our elected halls of government, but poor, boorish, and bad behavior are not illegal. They are, in fact, in most cases – providing they do not cross a threatening or physical line – protected speech.   And from what we are told on a regular basis by lobbyists, reporters and those familiar with the Capitol, these behaviors are standard operating procedure for those in power and far from home.   

Apparently, a constitutional protection isn’t enough for the Florida Senate – not in today’s world of cowardess for the sake of correctness. We’re sorry that Frank Artilles walked the plank, the Florida Senate and all its hypocrisy deserved a very public airing of its dirty laundry. Perhaps that will happen on another day.