An ad has been popping up too often on my computer when I try to play a nice quiet game of solitaire. The tag line is, “Come shine in Miami where every day will make you want to stay just a little longer.”
The copy sounds like a hybrid of a Maurice Williams song covered by Jackson Browne with a gloss of a Waylon Jennings classic. It seems, moreover, like the farthest thing from the vision of Governor Ron DeSantis.
A couple of drag queens saunter across the screen. A voice-over intones: “… where everyone has their own unique glow.” Talk about a woke use of pronouns!
This is where the governor signed the Individual Freedom Act (House Bill 7) in 2022 and it’s been dubbed the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” an acronym for “Wrong to our Kids and Employees.” If one refuses to see evil, hear it or speak it, why it must not even exist.
Among other things, the law prohibits teaching, instruction or corporate culture that “espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels” students or employees to learn, accept or believe one of eight concepts. Lots of verbs there. These strictures constitute what one might call the eight commandments of Governor DeSantis’s fascistic theocracy.
Florida’s Limestone Tablets
Thou Shalt Not:
- Suggest that any historical, white figure was anything less than moral, decent, upright and perfect in character.
- Suggest that racism might exist on an unconscious level, even though we all know it does.
- Suggest that there have ever been any advantages to being white even as walking, driving or simply hanging out while black can be life threatening.
- Consider issues like race, color, national origin or sex when making decisions in the halls of government, places of business, educational establishments or any other place.
- Acknowledge that historic figures—particularly the white folk that populate right-wing mythology—had character flaws or imperfections.
- Use affirmative action in any way for any reason in education, business, homeownership and government.
- Say, teach or do any factual truth that might make a white “child” in pre-K through grade 12 experience negative feelings.
- Challenge the virtues or offer scrutiny of the Republican Party that controls all Florida legislation.
Essentially, DeSantis and his Republican gerrymandered supermajority will go to any lengths to protect the fragile psyches of the state’s paler children while continuing to harm children of color. And promote White Christian Nationalism.
As part of this program, DeSantis has ordered the removal of any book challenged for whatever reason by any member of the community, whether or not that person has a dog in the fight—let along a child in the school. HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education Act, reiterates some of HB7 and makes it exponentially easier for anyone to deny all students access to books. All it takes is a claim that a book is “pornographic” or is “not age appropriate.” Teachers have been forced to empty their classroom libraries. Book fairs have been put on hold.
Follow the Money
Florida boasts about its climate; never mind the annual hurricanes and floods, and six months of intolerable heat and humidity. The Sunshine State claims to have a booming economy but best do the math before you decide to move there. Insurance, healthcare and housing are likely to cost you more, and housing costs are surging while wages are stagnant. While there is no state income tax, Florida’s sales and property taxes are comparatively high, and newcomers may find their property taxes climbing even as long-time residents enjoy certain protections.
Insurance is a real problem, too. Weather and climate change mean the average Floridian pays more than most other Americans for property and car insurance. The total cost of car ownership, for instance, is above the national average. Florida also ranks fourth in the US for the cost of healthcare, in part because state laws allow employers to cover less of a worker’s healthcare costs.
Life in a Theocratic Police State
Potential residents may also wish to reconsider moving to a state where law is enacted by right-wing religious zealots. They might wonder whether they can be comfortable living in a state where covert racism becomes codified in a renewal of Jim Crow legislation.
Are they okay with the denial of all abortion services, however dire the woman’s (or girl’s) medical or social situation, after the sixth week or pregnancy? Do they think the state should mandate that a woman gestate a pregnancy under all circumstances, even when she and her doctor disagree that she should?
Are they okay with children learning that slavery was largely beneficial to the enslaved? With having some of the poorest educated high-school graduates and the most undesirable colleges and universities in the US? In 2022, Florida ranked 27th in academic performance, 24th in safety, 29th in class size and attendance, for an overall rank of 25. That would be dead center out of 50 states. When DeSantis and the Florida legislature are through approving content, and how and when teachers can teach it, that ranking is unlikely to go up.
Is the legal disenfranchisement of voters based on race and ethnicity okay? Florida thinks it is. The Gerrymandering Project assigns the state an “F” in “partisan fairness.”
Not A Place For Most
In other words, Governor DeSantis and his Republican majority in Tallahassee have decided “who may and who may not participate in the American Dream in Florida. In doing so, we haven’t rigged the system against anyone who doesn’t agree with us on matters political, cultural and religious. We are merely creating ‘our own private Florida’.”
No. Of course it hasn’t. Not entirely. Not yet.
In The Future
But just wait. In his State of the State address on March 7, Governor DeSantis took his culture wars to a potential national audience. Flori-duh as the model for Republican leadership going into 2024? A nation armed to the teeth, taught white-washed history in schools, and alliances with Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and all their totalitarian subsidiaries over our test friends in the European Union, United Kingdom, Ireland, the Baltic Nations and beyond?
I don’t think so. That’s not what the Founders envisioned. It’s not what more than half this nation’s population wants. And we had better make sure it doesn’t happen.