August 19, 2022

Infecting Everything

Spectator
By Stephen Tuttle | July 9, 2022

A contagion of political foolishness and extremism now infects all corners of the country.

Down in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis is using a compliant legislature—some would say downright ovine—to both install his ideology as law and to exact retribution in a way that probably makes Donald Trump envious.

Public school teachers in Florida are now constrained to discuss much about race and racism lest it make white students “uncomfortable.” DeSantis wanted it that way, and the legislature was happy to oblige. So, American history contains just a handful of references to that pesky slavery business and then moves along. Never mind that American history simply cannot be accurately taught without a deep dive into slavery specifically and racism in general, regardless of who might feel discomfort as a result.

Florida teachers won’t be talking much about gender identity or sexuality either. The Florida legislature, with DeSantis’ enthusiastic support, prohibited classroom discussion about gender identity issues prior to the 4th grade, the so-called “don’t say gay” law.

(To be fair, the left and the media jumped on this legislation with enthusiastic exaggerations and disinformation. This law, which does not ban the use of the word “gay,” applies only to children in grades K-3 or in the 5 to 9 age group. Is it really essential, for example, that gender identity discussions are part of the curriculum for 5-year-olds?)

The Walt Disney Company didn’t care for that legislation and said so publicly. DeSantis had the legislature strip the Florida Disney properties of preferential tax rates. The intended consequence of that action was to punish an organization opposed to a DeSantis policy. The unintended consequences have not yet been fully realized, but the communities in which the Disney properties sit may now be required to provide police, fire, and infrastructure services Disney previously provided themselves.

DeSantis has also forced legislation that will require every teacher to take a “civics” class which calls the notion that the Founders wanted a strict separation of church and state a “misconception;” that’s how it should be taught, the teachers were told.

You might recall DeSantis was also an early COVID-denier and recoiled against mask and vaccine mandates. Per DeSantis, the state will not order vaccines for children under five though they have been approved by the FDA and recommended by the CDC. (He has not prohibited medical facilities or local governments from ordering the vaccines.)

Dr. Lisa Gwynn, a pediatrician and board member of the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation, reminded folks the vaccines had been approved and recommended and should be made available by the state. Alas, she had crossed swords with DeSantis. Two days later she was removed from her board position.

Extremism in the name of policy isn’t just a DeSantis practice. The Muskego-Norway School District up in Wisconsin removed the book When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka from their high school reading list. The book is a stark account of our internment of American citizens of Japanese descent in World War II, and some board members thought it was too “one-sided.” They suggested there should be a companion reading about the attack on Pearl Harbor or the Japanese horrors inflicted on Nanking, China, in a classic case of “whataboutism.”

No actions of the Japanese military counterbalance our effective imprisonment of American citizens based on their ancestry. Students should know that happened and that we also stole citizens’ homes, possessions, land, and businesses and never returned them. It should also be noted our government eventually officially apologized and paid reparations to the survivors or their immediate descendants.

Out in Arizona, a leading GOP gubernatorial candidate has embraced extreme nonsense with both arms. Kari Lake, a former local news anchor and favorite of Donald Trump, is running a campaign almost entirely detached from reality. Her 2020 election denials have become so extreme CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale referred to her as “aggressively dishonest.”

Her claims have been disproven (the Maricopa County “audit” did not prove fraud as she claims but did prove Joe Biden actually received 99 more votes than previously reported), debunked (there is zero evidence more than 30,000 ballots were cast “three or four times” as Lake claims), or just delusional (no, 200,000 illegal ballots were not brought in by mules as she claimed during a recent debate).

The eastern U.S. is not immune. Officials at the Cornell University Library recently removed a bust of Abraham Lincoln and a large plaque of the Gettysburg Address. Why? A library employee who understandably asked not to be identified said they were removed because “somebody complained.” A single, unexplained complaint.

Imagine if those sensitive Cornell students had to be subjected to the greatest speech in the English language, 272 words of brilliant brevity and near perfection.

Foolish extremism knows no ideology or geography, but it infects and damages everything everywhere without bias.

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