Book Review: Miami, A Survivor’s Tale, by Frank Abrams

Frank Abrams relates, in stark detail, how Miami, once a safe and pleasant tourist mecca for northerners seeking relief from winter ice and snow, became a noisy, polluted, crowded, gridlocked, politically corrupt and crime-ridden dystopia in two generations. Abram’s style is folksy and anecdotal. The anecdotes come one after another in rapid succession and result is a horrifying sense of freefall.
Some of the factors in Miami’s deterioration were common to American urban environments everywhere during the period between 1970 and 2010-the breakdown of families, drugs, crime, a general decrease in standard of living, decline of the middle class, increase of poverty and homelessness and ever increasing economic inequality. But nowhere in America has the combined effects of these factors had as powerful and unmitigated deleterious effects as in Miami.
One factor that set Miami apart from other places that have been less impacted is the rapid population growth, due to uncontrolled immigration. The Mariel boatlift in 1980 brought 125,000 Cubans to our shores, of which as many as 40,000 were released prisoners, mental patients, drug addicts and other undesirables whom Castro wanted to get rid of. Most of them settled in Miami. Aside from Cuba, immigrants poured in from all over the Caribbean, from Haiti, and various countries of central America. The population of Miami quadrupled in 30 years.
Many of Abram’s anecdotes are personal. He had several lucky escapes from disaster at the hands of fellow Miamians over the years, and at least two of his friends lost close relatives due to murder. One was the nine-year old daughter of a widower who had stayed home sick from school. The father had gone out for a job interview and the killers came while he was gone. He goes on at length about crime, political corruption, scams, environmental degradation, traffic jams, overcrowding, the deficiencies in the legal system and the medical system, and the near total absence of civility in daily life.
Finding Miami a less and less safe place to raise children, and deserted by all of his relatives who had gone elsewhere, Abrams finally decided to move to Ashville, North Carolina. He found it to be close to paradise, compared to what his native city had become.
I think that anyone concerned about America would do well to read Miami, A Survivor’s tale, because it is a cautionary tale for Americans. We are at a crossroads here in America, and Abrams’ story will tell us what policies not to pursue, lest everyplace in America end up like Miami.

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