While the nation was fixated on the China spy balloon, I was more concerned by a uniquely American windbag threatening America’s national security. Former President Donald Trump promoted, on his social media platform Truth Social, a violent, incendiary message. He retweeted [Re-Truthed] the following screed:
That Trump’s action wasn’t the top news headline for weeks, spotlights how far the civility bar has plummeted. We have become numb to an ex-president, who staged a failed coup against democracy, and is currently running for president again, unequivocally endorsing political gun violence. Our beleaguered society’s muted reaction to Trump is far scarier than a China balloon.
Trump’s alarming behavior occurred at the same time a Jan. 6 sedition trial of the Proud Boys was underway. The New York Times wrote that “prosecutors have started to lay out evidence that they say shows how members of the far-right pro-Trump group conspired to use force to stop the lawful transfer of power after the 2020 election.” Additionally, four members of the Oath Keepers were convicted of seditious conspiracy for their role in Jan 6.
On Feb. 6, two American Nazi’s hoping to spread their white supremacist ideology were arrested for planning to attack Baltimore’s power grid. They hoped to sow chaos in this majority Black city. Destroying power grids appears to be a favored form of domestic terrorism by white supremacists. Time magazine reports:
Attacks and suspicious activity at U.S. power stations reached a decade-long high last year, with more than 100 reported incidents in the first eight months of 2022…Since then, there have been at least 18 more publicly reported attacks or potential attacks on substations and power plants in Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, and Washington.
It’s difficult to counter the domestic terrorist threat next door when key lawmakers are steeped in white supremacy and Christian Nationalism, a vile philosophy The Public Religion Research Institute found was held by almost 1/3 of Americans, nearly two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants, thirty-five percent of all White people and 54-percent of Republicans.
The most obvious example of a public official pushing White Nationalist themes is Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. His exclusionary philosophy can be seen in his school censorship campaign, which is curdling into a dark and ugly book purge.
In Salon, there was a deeply disturbing article by Amanda Marcotte about a volunteer army in Florida, that scours libraries and hunts for books to ban. The right-wing group is called the Manatee Patriots and they put out a recruitment call for so-called “Woke Busters.”
What do these fanatics consider “woke” and verboten in the state of Florida? Basically, anything LGBTQ. Even if there is no sexual content, it is still considered off limits to students. This includes high school students who can handle these ideas and shouldn’t be infantilized. DeSantis’ is on a mission to render LGBTQ people invisible.
But this roving, book banning mob of zealots has also targeted for removal Michelle Obama’s memoir and a history of Barack Obama’s presidency. We also learned from NBC News that Florida’s Duval County has removed a book about the late Afro-Puerto Rican Major League Baseball legend Roberto Clemente. His offending “sin” was to write about facing racism while he pursued his baseball career. NBC writes:
“Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates” by Jonah Winter and Raúl Colón — and other books about Latino figures such as the late Afro-Cuban salsa singer Celia Cruz and Justice Sonia Sotomayor — are among the more than 1 million titles that have been “covered or stored and paused for student use” at the Duval County Public Schools District, according to Chief Academic Officer Paula Renfro.
The sickness coursing though Florida’s veins has become so severe that entire bookshelves are being locked behind barriers and teachers are being threatened with felony charges if they don’t lock up their libraries. It’s comforting to know that marauding bands of barely-literate, fundamentalist yahoos are raiding libraries, intimidating librarians and flagging “controversial” or “offensive” books to decide what Florida’s schoolchildren learn. Sounds like a great way to run a school system and mold citizens to compete in the modern job market.
When DeSantis was reelected, he brashly declared that “Florida is where woke goes to die.” It seems more like where legitimate education goes to hospice. It’s true that some espousing “woke” philosophy have, themselves, gone overboard and waded into ideological conformity and intolerance. We’ve all been irritated by people online posing as social justice warriors, when they are really outrage entrepreneurs looking for views on social media sites.
However, “woke” originally represented the very important and powerful idea that to combat racism, we must understand its bitter roots. This is not just an exercise in history, but a window into the issues that still influence contemporary public policy. To understand the systematic racism of yesterday, is to help comprehend why black people in 2023 are at least three times as likely to be audited by the Internal Revenue Service and why the wealthiest Black mothers and their babies are twice as likely to die as the richest white mothers and their newborns.
Gov. DeSantis doesn’t want Florida students to engage in such critical thinking, because it might expose his worldview as hollow and hateful. He and his ideological brethren are part of a perverse and dishonest movement that wants to teach an alternative history. In this Orwellian fantasy world, slavery is “involuntary relocation”, the treasonous confederate flag represents “service and sacrifice and heritage” and drag queens are the enemy, while full-blown Nazis are beyond reproach.
“DeSantistan” has degenerated to the point where there is now an official state position and “conservatively correct” way to think. All citizens must adhere to an official Big Government, Big Brother agenda, or the governor will vindictively come after you.
No one is safe from persecution in DeSantistan, not even the state’s largest employer. Like a mini dictator, the governor lashed out at Walt Disney World for speaking out against the state’s odious “Don’t Say Gay” law. DeSantis punished Disney by eliminating the company’s longstanding special tax district status.
[Or so we thought: USA Today’s Rex Huppke exposed DeSantis’ weak capitulation to Disney, after it was clear his stage horse move to stick it to the woke, would have stuck Florida taxpayers with a $1 billion tax bill. Additionally, Bloomberg’s Matthew Winkler showed how DeSantis’ “War on the Woke” is costing Florida taxpayers millions of dollars in increased bond market fees. Winkler wisely observed, “If socialism means state control of production, distribution and exchange of goods and services, then Florida and Texas fit the description.”]
I understand that most decisions in education are made at the state and local levels. But the Biden Administration needs to strongly consider an emergency intervention in Florida. It has become clear that Gov. DeSantis has overstepped his authority by installing what increasingly appears to be a white supremacist curriculum.
The Department of Education might need to take over certain functions of schooling in this backward land. If intervention in Florida’s schools is not possible, denial of federal funding, in various areas, must be on the table. The rest of the nation should not be forced to subsidize a white supremacist state that acts like its own country.
The last time I checked, Florida is still part of the United States of America and must adhere to the First Amendment. Residents living in “DeSantistan” should not have to endure the voices of minorities stripped from library shelves by self-appointed “woke-busters”. The people should not be forced to bow down to the official state-sponsored beliefs of the regressive regime in power, as if they are subjects living in North Korea, Russia or Iran.
What’s happening in Florida isn’t normal. It’s frightening. It’s not business as usual, but unusual business, and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise. While DeSantis might believe in the Old Confederate saw of “states’ rights”, the rights of states end where federally protected civil rights begin.
While the country peered skyward to contemplate the threat of the China balloon, there are daily threats to democracy and personal liberties posed by dangerous demagogues living right here in America. Some of these national security threats are elected officials who want to be President. While they hide their agenda by attacking “the woke”, the sane American majority better wake up to the threat of homegrown extremists before it’s too late.
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