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In Arkansas, Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently signed into a law a measure making it easier for businesses to employ children as young as 14. In Florida, school libraries have been cleared to the bare bones as librarians are prevented from stocking books until they have been certified as “woke-free,” a term that even its proponents can’t define. In the meantime, books are simply being stripped from shelves.
By contrast, here in Minnesota, DFL Gov. Tim Walz had a point to make this past week. He was busy stocking a Little Free Library he had placed outside his office in the Capitol, with titles that likely won’t make the cut in places like Florida and other Republican-led states where lawmakers are passing laws to ban any book that touches, even in passing, on controversial issues like race relations, abortion, same sex attraction, or any kind of social inequity. A Tallahassee principal was fired just last week because three parents were upset that sixth graders at the Tallahassee Classical School, saw a picture of Michelangelo’s David—widely considered the finest sculpture in the history of the world—as part of their studies. Three parents fussed that the sculpture is pornographic because David’s privates are showing.
Thanks to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his pals in the Legislature, curriculum has been taken out of the hands of educators and handed over to the loudest and looniest parents in every school district in the state. And he wants to do the same for America? We’ll pass.
Gov. Walz, fresh off his own solid re-election, has recognized that Minnesota provides an attractive counterpoint to the extremist tendencies of too many Republican governors and legislators these days. He recently noted that on the same day that he was signing a bill that provided universal free school lunches for all students, his Dickensian GOP counterpart in Arkansas was paving the way for more child labor. After all, why feed those kids when we can send them to the meat-packing plants? Walz recognized the contrast and was happy to draw it.
At a time when Republican states are passing increasingly Draconian anti-abortion laws, some of which have already resulted in higher rates of maternal mortality, Walz noted that Minnesota was enshrining abortion rights into state law. He also signed an executive order protecting the right to obtain doctor-approved, gender-affirming care for young people at a time when some Republican states are seeking to ban all such care, even for adults, and would force those who have already transitioned to move to another state or give up their hormone therapies.
Walz has correctly pointed out the utter hypocrisy of many GOP governors, who claim their actions are, in some twisted alternative reality, an effort to promote “freedom.”
The title of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s new book, “The Courage to be Free” is enough to elicit a gag response when paired with the reality of what’s actually happening in Florida, which is steadily eroding the freedoms residents of that state once took for granted. He’s even going after businesses that want to institute racial or gender sensitivity training. We can argue about how effective such training might be, but where does the government get off telling businesses they can’t have a commitment to tolerance and equity in their workplace? Talk about authoritarianism.
“Florida…that’s where freedom goes to die,” quipped Walz recently, taking a jab at DeSantis’s favorite line, that Florida is where “woke goes to die.” DeSantis can’t define woke, but we suspect Walz can define freedom, which in our book is having the right to make personal decisions for yourself, with as little interference from government as possible.
And that is what is under threat in Republican states across the country, where the rights of everyone to make health care decisions in consultation with doctors and family, rather than politicians, is under threat. It’s where students are prevented from learning basic realities of human existence and are force-fed whitewashed versions of American history lest they get “inappropriate ideas.” It’s where the right to vote is being steadily eroded and the separation between church and state is being dismantled in the rush to institute a Christianized version of Sharia law.
Unfortunately, for too many on the right these days, freedom means old White men having the right to tell everyone else how to live their lives. Thanks, but no thanks. We’ll stick with Minnesota.
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Some states have banned a book Michelle Obama did on her life. Very sad.
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