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Donald Morrison: Finding the right gift to return Florida's generosity

Immigration DeSantis Flights (copy)

A group of Venezuelan migrants are fed last week after they arrived in Martha's Vineyard — courtesy of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Columnist Donald Morrison wonders how the Bay State might return the favor.

Like almost everybody, I love receiving gifts. But I shudder when people give me something so extravagant that I really should reciprocate with a present of my own.

Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last week delivered nearly 50 Venezuelan migrants by chartered plane to Martha’s Vineyard. It was an unexpected blessing for Massachusetts, which greeted the newcomers with mild confusion and vast warmth.

You see, the Bay State is facing both a labor shortage and an aging population. How thoughtful of the governor to recognize that. He clearly deserves to replace Donald Trump in 2024 as the GOP’s leading humanitarian.

I’m both a frequent visitor to Florida and someone whose mother swallowed the Emily Post etiquette guide. Thus, I believe that the party or parties on the receiving end of such magnanimity are sometimes obligated by decency and decorum to send the giver an equally appropriate cadeau in return. Air-shipped, in this case, and preferably something he can’t get at home.

So, I made a list:

• Books. Officials in Florida have banned hundreds of titles from their schools and public libraries, including dozens of mathematics texts, as potentially offensive. Refilling the shelves would be a nice gesture.

• Teachers. Florida schools are short nearly 10,000 of them, largely because of low pay and politicians meddling in the curriculum. Massachusetts, where teaching is a valued profession and education a major industry, should do its part to help.

• Democrats. Until this year, they were a plurality of Florida voters. Republicans, with their low-tax policies and endless culture wars, have lately gained a slight edge in registrations. Massachusetts, meanwhile, has the nation’s largest surplus of registered Democrats. We can spare a few.

• Health insurance. Florida has one of America’s highest rates of people without coverage. That’s partly because the Sunshine State refused the federally funded Medicaid expansion included in the 2014 Affordable Care Act, thus depriving health insurance to more than 800,000 qualified residents. Massachusetts, by contrast, has the nation’s highest coverage rate. Why not offer to claim Medicaid-deprived Floridians as Bay Staters? The federal government would pick up 90 percent of the cost.

• Hills. Massachusetts has lots of them, especially in the Berkshires. Most Floridians live only a few feet above sea level and a few miles from a coast. They’ll soon be underwater from climate change, so let’s take the higher ground and ship them dirt.

• Roundabouts. Sometimes called rotaries, these traffic-calming intersections are a Bay State specialty. They could save lives in Florida, which doesn’t seem to have speed limits — but does have a motor vehicle death rate more than double that of ours, the nation’s lowest.

• Bullet-proof vests. Florida’s per capita gun-death rate is four times that of Massachusetts. Enough said.

• Snakebite medicine. Florida is the only state that’s home to every venomous reptile species in the U.S., including the two-legged kind.

• Gays. In the past year, DeSantis has pushed through bills banning the discussion of LGBTQ issues in classrooms (the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law) and banning gender-affirming health coverage. Massachusetts has a relatively larger, better treated LGBTQ population. Let’s send a few evangelists down there to tell the locals what they’re missing.

• Women. Florida has fewer of them for every resident male than Massachusetts does. To understand why, go to the Twitter, Redditt and other social media accounts with the name “Florida Man,” recounting various stupid-drunken crimes and mishaps. Or ask Florida women.

I could go on, but my purpose here is to stimulate generous thoughts. I invite Bay Staters to come up with their own gift idea — something our friends in Florida would treasure forever. Something that reflects the spirit of its governor’s decision to bless our state with a cruel, craven, possibly illegal publicity stunt.

After all, it’s the thought that counts.

Donald Morrison is an Eagle columnist and co-chairman of the advisory board. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.

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