Royce Mathew has some far-out ideas. He thinks church and state should be separate. He thinks city officials should not be endorsing anti-gay groups. He thinks the state has no business legislating morality. He's not from here, you see. He's from California. Apparently, such radical views are not uncommon in that western Gomorrah.
But Central Florida is still part of the United States, last time anyone checked, which means Mathew is free to express his opinions to elected officials. That's how this representative democracy thing is supposed to work, unless seventh-grade civics was a lie (which I took while growing up in California ... coincidence?).
Almost as soon as Mathew took up residence here, he began bombarding Orlando city officials with e-mails asking them to stop praying before city commission meetings. Then he started bombarding state officials asking them to strike sodomy laws from the books. When Commissioner Vicki Vargo proclaimed July 21 "Exodus International Day," Mathew got creative. (Exodus International is the Winter Park organization that tries to help gays straighten up with a dose of the Good Book.) He decided to form his own group, Exodu Sin Ternation-al, and petition Vargo to get a day in honor of his group too. "Like Exodus Inter-national, we are promoting and upholding a key righteous Nazi goal, which is to eliminate the homosexuals from the world," Mathew writes on his site hometown.aol.com/georgequeen/page3.html.
It's satire, of course. But to Vargo, it's all evidence of a dangerous mind. So she turned Mathew's e-mails over to Orlando police, who in turn tracked him down and knocked on his door.
"A guy comes to my door and says, Ã?Let's talk about those e-mails you have been sending to the city,'" Mathew says. "He is basically grilling me as though I committed a crime."
The guy was Officer T. Sommersdorf, the "community involvement officer" assigned to work with Vargo. (All city commissioners are assigned a police officer they work with in their district.) Mathew says Sommersdorf questioned him for a few minutes but never made any specific accusations. Then he left.
Mathew says all of his correspondence with Vargo has been "routine" stuff, such as information requests and the Exodu Sin Ternational petition request. "If that's a crime, then I guess I'm guilty," he says. "I didn't think sending e-mails in correspondence to the city about city business was against the law."
Vargo is not claiming that Mathew threatened her. The problem is he's "obsessed" with the city of Orlando, she says, even though he lives in Altamonte Springs. That and the fact that he has two separate e-mail accounts were enough to set off her alarm bells. "It was a precautionary measure," she says.
It's not the first time she's turned over e-mails to the cops, either. "I can't remember who else I have [turned over to police], but he's not the first." Keep that in mind next time you dash off a letter to Vargo. You could get a knock on your door.
It's a grande old flag
When conservative students at the University of Central Florida decided to install flags in the classrooms, they didn't screw around. They installed flags, big-ass, whompin', clothe-the-Statue-of-Liberty-sized flags. Or so it seems, if you checked out the Oct. 16 online Central Florida Future (www.ucffuture.com).
The top story that day was the vandalism of American flags installed in campus classrooms courtesy of ROCK, the spelling-challenged group of students whose painful acronym translates as Rebuilding on a Conservative Korner-stone. Apparently, some evildoers who hate America and despise freedom and democracy (and probably support gay marriage) decided to perpetrate a cowardly act of terrorism (that will not stand) by cutting down some of the flags. Old Glory was duly replaced the next day, and, according to the Future, most students were unaware that the flags were ever in the classrooms in the first place, let alone cut down and replaced.
Talk about apathy! These iconic symbols would be hard to miss. A Slug analysis of the severed flag pictured in the Future suggests that it was at least 35 feet tall and weighed upward of 600 pounds. (Not to mention that it was hung upside down, representative of Satanism, communism and probably gay marriage.)
Future managing editor Alex Babcock set me straight. It was an optical illusion. The flag was a tiny thing in the foreground of the shot, framed in an odd way that quadrupled its size. More evidence that you can't trust the liberal media.
What did faculty think? A couple of them were mighty hot. "The person that did it ought to be punished," the Future quoted math professor John Cannon as saying. "If he's a U.S. citizen, then we should prosecute the sucker for defacing the American flag. If he's a foreign student that's a guest in our country, then we should ship him right where he came from and we should say, Ã?Since you hate our guts, go join your foreign policy or your war department, and we'll kill your ass.'"
Fiery words for a prof. So fiery I called Cannon myself to make sure he said 'em. He did. And more. "If the bastards want to declare war on us, go ahead. We'll blow you away." Watch out, flag-desecrators -- you're in for an ass-kicking!
That's what I miss about college: the open-minded exchange of ideas, the warm embrace of cultural diversity, the heady atmosphere of free speech, the ability to question authority. And the Tater Tots in the dorm cafeteria. All you could eat. Those were the days.