By now it's pretty much common knowledge that Florida is the most batshit lunatic place on earth, so with that in mind, let me tell you a little story. It's from early in my career when I was working for WSVN in Miami and it involves a Santeria priest, a live goat and a room full of reporters.
It goes like this: Miami's amusingly large community of believers in silly Afro-Caribbean superstition had been feeling the heat from local authorities for some time. Animal rights activists and good, old-fashioned sane people were finally beginning to question some of the methods and practices of the Santeria "religion," particularly when it came to the slaughtering of live animals as various sacrifices to one god or another. I'm not exaggerating when I say that not only is it common to see live goats and chickens roaming the front yards of some Miami homes -- blissfully unaware of their impending date with a kitchen knife, one would imagine -- but the City of Miami courthouse employs a special detachment of janitors dubbed the "Voodoo Squad" which is specifically tasked with the removal of the chicken parts, blood and fairy dust sometimes left outside of courtrooms. (Ostensibly, such magical detritus is offered up by friends of defendants on trial in the hope of, say, getting Raul "Pachuco" Diaz-Gonzalez-Martinez off on felony drug charges via the appeasement of Papa Chango.)
In an effort to allay the outrage of the few decent people left in the Greater Miami area, a local Santero made what would quickly become a horrifically ill-advised decision to hold a news conference at which he would demonstrate the "humane" way that animals are handled during Santeria rituals. Now, if you live someplace, oh, I don't know, normal, none of this sounds the least bit terrifying -- absurd maybe, but given that the laws of decent society and general sanity would apply, you'd likely be safe in the knowledge that what seemed as if it were about to happen wouldn't actually happen. Again, though -- Florida, and in particular Miami.
So there he was: a self-proclaimed practitioner of the light-arts of Santeria, dressed in a pristine white robe, standing in the middle of his own living room, holding a large knife and calmly, amiably addressing about a dozen reporters -- a surprisingly insouciant live goat lounging at his feet, thoroughly oblivious to the surreal bit of theater going on around him. Once the holy man was satisfied that everyone was in place, the show began. He spoke a few words, an invocation of the spirit world I'd imagine, then in one fast and fluid motion reached down and grabbed the goat -- who had by now finally wised-up and realized that something was very wrong -- and slashed it deep across the throat with the giant knife.
I truly hope that someone had enough of his or her faculties intact to take a picture of the gaggle of reporters at that moment. I have no doubt that their expressions were well beyond anyone's power of adequate description.
The goat struggled for a second, then the blood sprayed out of the vicious wound in its throat like a geyser. The priest grabbed the animal and tried to hold it over a small bowl that had been placed on the floor in front of it and was surrounded with an assortment of religious knick-knacks. Needless to say, attempting to aim an eruption of blood of that size is easier said than done; the stuff was going everywhere. It was creating a huge crimson bloom on the terrazzo floor and had already forced the reporters to take several steps back in some combination of shock, revulsion and a desire not to get goat's blood all over their shoes.
After what seemed like an eternity, the poor goat's struggling was reduced to a few sickening twitches and it went limp; one would hope the embarrassment killed it before the hemorrhaging did. The scene was absolutely quiet -- an entire room full of reporters, the kind of people you typically couldn't get to shut the hell up if you poured concrete into their mouths, stunned into silent submission. And at that -- with a dead goat lying at his feet and a bloody knife in his hand, wearing robes stained a gruesome red, in the middle of a living room that looked as if the Manson family had just dropped by -- the priest nonchalantly stood up, looked directly at the reporters and their cameras and said, completely straight-faced, "Now, there -- did you see anything inhumane?"
I once asked Miami Herald columnist and best-selling author Carl Hiaasen if he'd ever consider moving away from South Florida. His response: "Are you kidding? Why would I leave all this great material?"
I bring this story up because, once again, we're being reminded that what's normal in Florida pretty much meets the legal definition of insanity anywhere else. Currently making the rounds is a news item about a Florida man who's running for the U.S. Senate as a libertarian and is now facing down a metric ton of controversy because he once sacrificed a goat and drank its blood.
32-year-old Augustus Sol Invictus, a name that basically means "majestic unconquered sun" and which was adopted legally by this guy a few years back, apparently claims to be an adherent of the Thelema religion which was started in the early 1900s by Satanist weirdo and occasional classic metal lyric Aleister Crowley. Two years ago he went on a kind of vision quest that involved him walking from Florida to the Mojave Desert where he spent weeks fasting and praying and when he returned home, to give thanks for his deliverance, I guess, he carved up a goat and downed its blood in some kind of pagan ritual.
This whole thing is so fucking out there that the chairman of Florida's Libertarian party, Adrian Wyllie, has resigned in protest of Invictus's candidacy. "I did this as a pre-emptive strike. I don’t want anyone to think this guy represents Libertarians. He doesn’t. Under the law, we can’t keep him from the ballot," says Wyllie. He also claims that Invictus is a white supremacist and neo-Nazi who preaches armed revolution, in addition to being someone who kills goats and occasionally speaks in tongues.
For his part, Invictus denies that he's anything like the caricature Wyllie is drawing for the public, but he concedes that some of his supporters are neo-Nazis and he does believe -- wait for it -- that the government is gearing up for a war on its citizens, which would put him firmly in the middle of the far-right anti-government groupthink these days. "The only question is when are the citizens going to start fighting back?" he told the Sun Sentinel last week. "I don't think I'm the only person who sees a cataclysm coming, but I think I'm the only person saying it, and I think that scares people." Please keep in mind that every third person on the internet right now believes there's a cataclysm coming, making Augustus Sol Invictus nowhere near the thought leader he believes himself to be.
As for the goat thing, Invictus does actually cop to it. "I did sacrifice a goat. I know that's probably a quibble in the mind of most Americans," he says. "I sacrificed an animal to the god of the wilderness. ... Yes, I drank the goat's blood." Again, it'd be nice to be able to say that this makes him special in some way, but you have to consider where he comes from. In any other state in the union, you tell people that somebody's running for public office who drinks goat blood and it'll garner a lot of raised eyebrows; in Florida, the place where people on bath salts eat each other's faces and guys are arrested for stealing 36,000 pounds of Crisco, the story of Augustus Sol Invictus is barely worth a break in your stride.
In Florida, the governor is a white collar criminal who looks like he's hiding an insectoid exoskeleton under a thin layer of human flesh. This asshole can't even begin to compete with that. Face it, in Florida, the crazy is professional grade -- and this guy's a rank amateur. Still, good luck, Mr. Invictus. If Ted Cruz can be a U.S. senator, anybody can.
(Update: Somebody snooped around the internet and uncovered a piece that details and rightfully mocks the hilariously self-aggrandizing resignation letter Invictus wrote up for the law office he worked at just before leaving on his trip into the wilderness. It's the kind of thing that deserves to be savored and cherished. And it tells you everything you need to know about this guy.
(Part of this was originally published at my blog, Deus Ex Malcontent)