By Diane Roberts
OCCUPIED TALLAHASSEE — In the first speech of his 2024 presidential campaign, not-so-cunningly disguised as the “State of the State” address, Ron DeSantis declared, We have made Florida the freest state in these United States.
And the freedoms just keep coming.
Florida women will be free from controlling their own bodies.
DeSantis supports a bill to outlaw abortions after 15 weeks because, as he put it, “I mean when you start talking about 15 weeks where you have really serious pain and heartbeats and all this stuff.”
No exceptions for rape or incest.
We want those fetuses free to grow up and, as proud Americans, have the opportunity to get shot to death with the guns we’re free to take to church, to class, to Pilates, to Publix, to Girl Scout camp, to the Monster Truck Pull, to the ball game — anywhere liberty-loving Americans might need to protect themselves from critical race theory, antifa, or annoying vegans.
When asked if he’d support a bill to ditch concealed carry licenses and let anyone pack heat anywhere any time, DeSantis said, “Of course.”
Local governments will be free from having any say over development, tree ordinances, infrastructure, little issues of that ilk. Businesses could sue a county or a city for loss of revenue if they claim having to operate on sustainable power or clean up polluted water hurts profits.
Speaking of polluted water, Florida may soon be free of manatees.
When they’re not being run down by idiots in speedboats, they’re starving to death.
Fertilizer-laced runoff from over-development, Big Ag, too many septic tanks, and the suburban addiction to Miracle-Gro fuel toxic algae that kills the sea grasses manatees eat.
DeSantis proclaimed, Three years ago, we promised bold action to safeguard Florida’s natural resources, improve water quality, and restore the Everglades.
He just hopes you don’t bother to look at his real environmental record, which could charitably be called pitiful.
Sure, the state appropriated money for the ’Glades, for a “study” of blue-green algae, and for a vague concept he calls “resilience.”
But the Indian River Lagoon, the St. Johns River, the River of Grass, Lake Okeechobee, and many others are still full of poison.
DeSantis still hasn’t done anything about runoff.
Nor will he or our other Republican overlords do anything about the climate crisis.
That might upset the road builders, the home builders, the wetland drainers, and Florida’s venal power companies.
They like to be free to rape and pillage what’s left of our beautiful land and water.
If a bill written by a Florida Power & Light lobbyist passes, solar energy could become so prohibitively expensive, most consumers will have to stick to dirty energy.
FPL will then be even freer to pay dark money operatives orchestrating spoiler “ghost candidates” to get Republicans elected, keeping the wheels greased until the whole state sinks into the sea.
The burden of science
Florida is certainly free from the burden of science.
If we want to huff horse de-wormer, ingest malaria drugs, or guzzle urine to cure our COVID while refusing to get a simple and effective vaccine because we read on some website that the gubmint and George Soros with his Jewish Space Lasers will somehow take over our brains, well, that’s our choice as Americans.
Declare yourself free from annoying doctors: Stop all that testing!
The governor opined that, pre-coronavirus, “We weren’t out testing, do I have the flu or do I have that. This is a new thing that’s been put in, so that’s not the posture how you should live your life, getting negative tests all the time.”
DeSantis might want to get tested for aphasia, but never mind that: If you let medical types check out your precious bodily fluids and poke around with stethoscopes and X-rays and blood pressure monitors, they might find all kinds of unseemly things.
Diabetes, say, or cancer or high cholesterol or hypertension or even the omicron variant.
As the former president pointed out, the more you test, the more cases you find.
Better to live free of such information.
As for education, the less we have of that, the freer we are — at least if we’re white.
Those sweet little Caucasian children will be free from learning that America got rich off enslaving other people and that Florida still suffers from institutional racism.
All students must be liberated from reading books that might make them feel bad (especially if they’re white and straight), question authority, or wonder if maybe George Washington wasn’t entirely a great guy.
This is an important step in saving us from dangerous political practices such as democracy.
To help us be free from voting, the governor and Legislature want to crack down on perverted practices such as “drop boxes,” “voting by mail,” and the insidious practice of “ballot harvesting,” when some sinister do-gooder helps a church or nursing home get their votes to the county supervisor of elections office.
In 2020, there was no fraud (except a handful of Republicans in the Villages), no long lines, no screwed-up machines.
And look what happened in that election.
Obviously, Florida needs to make it a damned sight harder to vote.
We also need to ensure that supervisors clean the voter rolls, that only citizens are registered to vote, and that mail ballots only go to those who actually request them before each individual election.
Of course, elected officials check voter rolls about once every six months, but maybe they should do it once a week.
In his pursuit of making Florida free for his presidential campaign videos, DeSantis is liberating us from reality itself.
Many Floridians are fine with that: We live in a state where the most famous resident is a talking mouse.
Others of us would prefer some facts with our politics.
As Timothy Snyder, Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University (our governor’s alma mater) says, “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”
Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo. She has been a member of the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times–back when that was the Tampa Bay Times’s name–and a long-time columnist for the paper in both its iterations. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books.