Every state has a reputation, often well-deserved: Smarty Massachusetts, glamorous California, macho Montana, accident-prone West Virginia, party-animal Nevada. But, recently, there have been indications we are changing—changing into one of those states. You know: Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma—in other words, the kind of state you only hear about when someone does something really fucking dumb.
The first sign of transforming into such a state is a rise in white-trash gothic crime: senseless violence, bewildering backstories, shirtless people being stuffed into cop cars. Like the case in Florida where one guy (the target of a hitman) brawled with another (the hitman himself). It was your typical case of a mother wanting her daughter’s ex-boyfriend killed and fed to alligators (incidentally, it was the second time an ex’s family had tried to pay someone to whack the guy).
Here in Nevada, we had the recent “road rage shooting,” a narrative so tangled that the ID channel might have to hire Thomas Pynchon to write the re-enactments. What was initially the tale of an anonymous assailant gunning down an innocent mom has turned into two nutcases cruising around the suburbs opening fire on each other; the shootee’s family spins their story about as effectively as a set of bald tires in an ice storm, while the shooter’s team alludes to drug deals gone bad and childhood head injuries. It’s gone viral with all the attendant comment-board snark: In the UK, they’re insisting that “families this stupid should not be permitted to reproduce,” while the people of Alabama call us “crazy white folk.” (Yes, Alabama looks down on us now.)
Then there are the grandstanding nut-job politicos. The kind you’d describe as tone-deaf, if they didn’t seem to be so enamored of the sound of their own voices. Consider the Idaho state rep who asked if women could swallow cameras for gynecological exams, until someone gently explained to him that the stomach and the vagina are not connected.
We, of course, have Michele Fiore. Last month, the Nevada assemblywoman suggested that if all those “young, hot little girls” on college campuses carried guns, they wouldn’t get raped. Last week, she one-upped herself—because that’s what Fiore does better than anything—during a state voter identification debate, accusing an NAACP representative of “playing the race card” and calling one of her colleagues “colored” almost in the same breath. And then she reasoned that “racism is over” because we have a black president. One senses that Fiore ran for office in 2012 for the same reason she sunk $1 million into financing Siren, a movie she wrote, produced and starred in back in 2006: She’s desperate for attention. Whether she’s trying to slash education funding or pouting in a pink satin teddy (yes, that happens in Siren), the look-at-me goal is the same. Fiore is like a Kardashian, only with the power to change laws.
The final blow: The Daily Show mocks you as a clueless backwater state bogged down in the Eisenhower era—like when they busted on the Arizona school board member who described a Mexican-American studies class as an attempt to “promote the overthrow of the government.” Recently, The Daily Show fileted Nevada because of our sex-ed programs, which push the “abstinence only” agenda. We sell our state with tits, ass and every naughty bit in between, but act like our kids don’t know what a nipple is. How can you not giggle at a place where it’s legal for a high school senior to drive across the county line and hire a hooker to take him ’round the world, but not to encourage him to use a condom? The only bright spot on The Daily Show segment was that the children of Las Vegas seemed articulate, intelligent and aware that the adults are idiots.
But it’s not too late to save our reputation! Even if our aspirations toward high-tech industries, research universities and an edgy urban center don’t pan out—which they won’t unless we quit embarrassing ourselves—there’s still hope. If we can band together and renew our commitment to vodka, blackjack and getting laid rather than drive-by shootings, bloviating and keeping people from getting laid, we can at least keep Nevada No. 1 in sin, rather than stupidity. Because first, we’re better than that, and second, that’s Florida’s title.