Letters: With shades of '1984,' DeSantis creating opposite of a 'free state' in Florida

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speak at an event in Des Moines on March 10.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speak at an event in Des Moines on March 10.
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Gov. Ron DeSantis’ claim that he is making Florida the “freest state” is an example of Newspeak from George Orwell’s novel “1984,” in which words mean just the opposite of what they normally do.

DeSantis and the Republican rubber-stamp Legislature are taking away freedoms one after another. Here’s a short list: the right to an abortion beyond six weeks; the right to teach American history as it happened, for students to learn how it has affected all cultures and races; the right to teach and for students to learn about different lifestyles and cultural norms; the right to expose students and employees to the importance of diversity and inclusion; and the right for Florida’s colleges to make their own decisions on hiring and curriculum.

Unbelievably, in the 21st century the DeSantis administration has even returned to the medieval and discredited practice of banning books. On the other hand, they want to allow anyone to carry a concealed weapon, spend our tax money to send legitimate asylum seekers to other states and hire a police force to find voter fraud, which is virtually non-existent.

Meanwhile we continue to deny 700,000 Floridians the right to health care by expanding Medicaid, and we pay the third lowest unemployment benefits in the country. A totalitarian state restricts freedoms and social benefits, not a free state (and here I thought that conservatives valued individual choice).

Floridians need to reject DeSantis’ agenda. Hopefully most citizens in the rest of the country are sufficiently alarmed by DeSantis’ agenda, so if it’s enacted here, he will have no chance to win a national election where true freedom is valued.

Roy Goldman, Jacksonville Beach

Sammie Fowler holds a sign at a Feb. 21 rally at the University of North Florida to urge protection of UNF's diversity efforts, which some view as under attack by Gov. Ron DeSantis' policies.
Sammie Fowler holds a sign at a Feb. 21 rally at the University of North Florida to urge protection of UNF's diversity efforts, which some view as under attack by Gov. Ron DeSantis' policies.

Sacrifice of diversity initiatives

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential ambition won’t be impeded, even as his attack on diversity initiatives contradicts Florida law and injures Floridians. Hypocritically, he seeks support from this group, yet has no qualms sacrificing them.

There are several legislatively created “diversity-equity-inclusion” (DEI) programs promoted by DeSantis in the fairly recent past. Yet he has now sharply pivoted against those programs, apparently motivated by a need to engage the culture warriors of his GOP base. Perhaps even more embarrassing is past Gov. Jeb Bush, who touted himself as an innovative, inclusive education promoter and author of several DEI initiatives — but who now enthusiastically blesses DeSantis’ attacks on his own programs.

These programs provided far-reaching benefits to many Floridians beyond the expedient "anti-woke” label claimed by DeSantis. Even Christopher Rufo, DeSantis’ appointed “tip of the spear” trustee to the New College of Florida (victim of a hostile takeover), was sobered to discover the broad beneficial reach of the school’s DEI programs that he ceremoniously gloated he would cancel.

Warning to Floridians (and Americans outside the Free State of Florida) that they and programs that benefit them will be sacrificed at the altar of DeSantian ambition.

Michael Miller, Ponte Vedra Beach

The staff at Queen of Angels bookstore often prays with customers and accepts prayer requests on their behalf.
The staff at Queen of Angels bookstore often prays with customers and accepts prayer requests on their behalf.

Bookstore lawsuit unnecessary

With regard to the March 4 column by Rachel Csutoros, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, she is jumping the gun. It’s my understanding that the lawsuit by Queen of Angels bookstore, which her organization is funding, has been filed before any issue has actually been raised.

The bookstore owner plans to publish a policy on employees not using a customer’s preferred pronoun that does not match their apparent biological sex. She also plans to publish it on her blog. The bookstore calls itself Catholic but is not directly affiliated with a Catholic parish or diocese.

My puzzlement comes from two things. First, if someone says their preferred pronouns are “they and them,” for example, when would an employee be forced to address them that way? I’m thinking: “May I help you?” would suffice. If the gender-neutral “you” is unacceptable, then there is much more involved here.

Second, why does that policy have to be publicly posted? While the multiplicity of genders and pronouns is confusing and tending toward incomprehension, why pick a fight? I’m guessing in the bookstore, as a publicly licensed accommodation, the city’s civil rights ordinance should be displayed. Or is that part of this unnecessary lawsuit?

Dennis Egan, Jacksonville

Most don’t support gun law change

I was not surprised to read on March 11 that 77% of Floridians — according to a poll from the University of North Florida — are opposed to the gun bills currently in the state Legislature. The citizens of the state do not feel the need to prop up the presidential dreams of the governor and they realize the danger such a law can inflict on the public.

If anything will reflect poorly on our state representatives and senators, it is a law being enacted that an overwhelming majority thinks is inappropriate. When the next election comes around, the incidents of armed road rage, fatal shootings in bar fights, family members killing each other over silly arguments and children being accidentally injured and killed by guns become unbearable, these politicians will be sent home for good.

News of Florida’s outrageous gun laws will proceed Gov. Ron DeSantis in his bid to become president, and reasonable voters will not support him. How ridiculous to put guns in the hands of people with no training, no background checks and no permitting.

Jim Kavanagh, Jacksonville

The downtown Jacksonville skyline.
The downtown Jacksonville skyline.

Develop more than one ‘downtown'

Cities that spread out with largely uncontrolled growth — like Jacksonville — typically develop not one, but multiple “downtowns.” We should recognize the inevitable and work with it, instead of against it.

Our historic downtown is our political and cultural hub. Its business life is no longer retail, but corporate, with headquarters of banking, communications and a few other service industries. We don't have to force it to become a lifestyle neighborhood of some kind, spending buckets of tax money on what it doesn't need to be.

Our retail downtown is now St. Johns Town Center. We should recognize it as such and make it a policy to enhance that aspect and not insist it become also several other things. The Baymeadows area could well be our culinary downtown and the burgeoning Mayo Clinic area our medical downtown.

It would be to our advantage to look at our city areas realistically, see what they have become, how they are functioning — and just go with it.

Sharon Scholl, Atlantic Beach

Jacksonville City Hall.
Jacksonville City Hall.

Kids on the playground

This is a call-out to the candidates for the mayoral election: If you are dumb enough to throw hateful negative ads against your opponents, thinking it makes me vote for you, that scratches you off my list of voting choices.

These ads are akin to the political robo-calls. I want to hear what good you will do for the city and what changes you will bring. If all you can do is throw dirt, then you are just a kid on the playground. A kid throwing dirt on the playground is not ready to hold office.

Jack Ferguson, Jacksonville

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Shades of '1984' in DeSantis' so-called 'Free State of Florida'