AP Photo/John Raoux Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to teach about the evils of dictatorships, while banning books and punishing businesses that don't agree with his policies.
AP Photo/John Raoux

Some are calling out the Republican governor for using many of the same tactics found in dictatorial governments, such as voter suppression, book banning, censorship, and state-mandated political indoctrination.

A bill signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Ron DeSantis will require students to observe “Victims of Communism Day” on Nov. 7 each year, ostensibly to honor “the 100 million people who have fallen victim to communist regimes” across the world. The measure will come into effect in April of 2023.

DeSantis signed the measure (HB 395) at the Freedom Tower in Miami, the place where Cuban refugees who fled to South Florida in the 1960s were processed as they arrived in the United States. For this reason, the downtown landmark is considered a symbol of liberty by Cuban Americans in the United States.

But the curriculum advanced by DeSantis doesn’t end with students; it will also give the Republican governor authority to require that Victims of Communism Day “be suitably observed by public exercise in the State Capitol and elsewhere as the governor may designate.”

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The Marxist Playbook and the GOP

What this means for students, in a nutshell, is that public schools will be required to dedicate at least 45 minutes that day to teach students about the “poverty, starvation, migration, systemic lethal violence and suppression of speech” that people suffered under Communist regimes.

“Yet, these same students can’t be taught about the ‘poverty, starvation, migration, systemic lethal violence and suppression of speech’ to which Blacks have been — and still are — subjected to in this country,” Cuban American writer Fabiola Santiago wrote in The Miami Herald, citing DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Race” measure, which prohibits educators from promoting lessons that would make students “feel guilt… [because of actions] committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin, or sex.” Opponents worry the bill (HB 7) will limit—or censor—race education in the state.

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This led to the governor’s banning of 54 of the 132 mathematics textbooks submitted for schools’ K-12 curriculum, because the texts allegedly included references to Critical Race Theory.

“Tallahassee Republicans that actually call themselves conservatives with a straight face, are passing bills that pretend like it’s the government’s job to protect their fragile little souls from feeling bad if they learn about slavery, or any of the not-so-pleasant history of our state,” said Florida Sen. Annette Taddeo, who compared Florida’s government to those of communist countries.

How Do I Censor Thee? Let Me Count the Ways…

DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” law (HB 1557), which bans classroom discussion of issues relating to sexual orientation or gender identity in school has also been called out by those who see it as curtailing Floridians’ liberties, and many also found alarming that when the Disney corporation—one of Florida’s biggest private employers with more than 60,000 workers in the state—refused to support DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill, DeSantis retaliated by moving to end Walt Disney World’s 55 years of self-government, leaving Florida tax payers to foot the tax bill.

An Attack on Democracy

Another reg flag is the voting restrictions signed into law last year, hailed as necessary to shore up public faith in elections, but which some opponents have called “Jim Crow 2.0”, accusing DeSantis of trying to make it harder to vote, particularly for people of color. For this reason, gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist called the “Republican attack” on democracy an emergency.

“Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Republican colleagues in Tallahassee care more about their political futures than our democracy,” Crist said to the Tampa Bay Times.

DeSantis and the Republican Legislature are banning books, censoring schools and punishing businesses that don’t share their political views, something that should sound the alarm for those who escaped totalitarian regimes.

An Unsettling Question

If crushing evil was the goal of DeSantis’ “Victims of Communism Day”, said Santiago, “they would also dedicate lessons to Nazism and the rise of right-wing paramilitary and hate groups in the nation, and specifically, Florida.” But, she added, “That’s too close to the base for comfort, isn’t it?”