GOP, Your Pillar Is Showing

I have long maintained that one of the three pillars holding up the modern version of the Republican party is the promotion of ignorance. There are undoubtedly more, but today I’ll juxtapose just two recent actions that prove me correct.

Jodi Picoult has sold over 40 million books. The right wing is trying to ban her most recent, The Storyteller.

Florida Republican Governor and 2024 presidential wannabe, Ron DeSantis, just signed a bill that will defund any Florida college that offers a diversity, equity or inclusion course using state or federal (how he gets off doing the latter is interesting) money.

Unrelated? I think not! In fact, they are both consistent and part of a larger scheme. For decades now the GOP has been promoting ignorance as a way to control its base. It is no coincidence that red states have the academically poorest state education systems.

The Storyteller is the first Picoult book I ever read. I did so recently because of the attempt to ban it. I wondered why and wanted to judge for myself. The novel is largely based on a Holocaust story. The extreme right denies the Holocaust, including many speakers at Trump and Trump related events. I saw absolutely no legitimate reason to ban the book!

The extreme right – which if DeSantis is not a part of, he certainly wants to court – wants no discussion of or education about the Holocaust. The excuse they will use is that a book about it is ugly. Of course, it is ugly. The Holocaust was ugly. (And I’m being gentle in my verbiage!) In fact, measuring it against other Holocaust books, The Storyteller was actually somewhat mild.

This is similar to the right wing’s attempt to ban books depicting slavery’s evils. They are uncomfortable and ugly but they existed. Ignoring them certainly won’t change that. I don’t think a discussion of any of our sins should be a 24/7/365 thing but if dismissed they are certain to reoccur.

I lived in the Sunshine State for about ten of the best years of my life. On balance I like Florida. But to say it has one of the best or even better state university systems is a lie. One of DeSantis’ lines really caught my attention. When discussing the bill he said, “If you want to do (he meant study but he was speaking down to his supporters’ level) things like gender ideology, go to Berkeley.” He was attempting to disparage UC-Berkeley, which is California’s flagship state university. Here is the reality: Florida doesn’t have a single campus in its state university system that is the academically equal, let alone superior, to Cal-Berkeley. If DeSantis really wants to do something for the Florida educational system – and he doesn’t! – he should invest in making it much, much stronger.

The philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who do no learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” You can hide from reality but that doesn’t change it.

GOP, your pillar is showing.

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