It’s time for me to take some heat off the [Crestview News] Bulletin’s new staff reporter — who, by the way, is just doing her job.
Granted, this publication’s newest staffer doesn’t need me to stand up for her; she’s a well-credentialed reporter hailing from [Emerson College] one of the most notable journalism schools in the country.
However, I have the overwhelming need to stand up for journalists everywhere at this point.
Having lived in this area for all but four years of my life, I have experienced the best and worst of what our special part of the Deep South has to offer.
I’ve also had the privilege of spending those other four years traveling all over the country and living in a diverse part of the Sunshine State; so feel free to take the following observations however you wish now that I’ve established my own credentials.
I love living in an area where holding doors open and saying “thank you” is the norm. I remember carrying a ton of boxes in Washington, D.C. and as I approached my exit door a lady came in the opposite direction [and] just walked by without a single acknowledgment of my presence.
I love being offered food at every event I work and having sweet tea readily available. I asked for sweet tea in Oregon and everyone looked at me like I was insane.
I love not being forced to wear a three-piece suit no matter where I happen to work — where a collared shirt, slacks and shoes are considered business attire. My friend had to order five suits for his first job out of college in, again, Washington, D.C.
However, behind the polite smiles and relaxed nature of Southern hospitality lies an explosive reaction triggered by the slightest hint of anything different from the norm.
Remember the man who put a package of pork in a Muslim family’s shopping cart [at Crestview’s Publix] because he said he could?
Remember the backlash of the mere suggestion of a change in the city’s alcohol ordinance; or the council’s reaction to suggestions of municipal change?
Now, a new reporter comes into town asking simple questions and suddenly she’s a member of the “fake news media” trying to bring a liberal agenda to the most conservative county in Florida.
In the era where every fact is now put under the microscope of keyboard warriors — who, by the look of their grammar, [likely] copied encyclopedia articles verbatim for their school reports — even the most neutral of questions are perceived as skewed to favor the opposition.
I can already see the barrage of comments calling me anywhere from an antichrist to a Yankee liberal — again, born and raised in the South, but someone will still think it, and I was trying to be alphabetical with my prediction — but every single hateful comment will prove the point this op-ed is trying to make: that there’s a “Jekyll and Hyde” complex in the wheelhouse of Southern Hospitality.
I can also see the comments saying, “If you don’t like living here, then leave!”
To that I say, “I love living here, I just see some systemic problems that I’d like to see fixed.”
Hopefully this op-ed will keep the trolls off our new staff reporter’s back long enough for her to find her niche and regain her faith in our supposedly hospitable little community.
Bring it on!
Johnny C. Alexander is a Crestview resident and freelance writer, photographer and videographer.