Under DeSantis, "freedom" is just another word for creative repression in Florida

There’s no word that gets abused more in Florida than “freedom.”

It’s hard to keep track of all the ways Florida’s official position is to oppose freedom while subsequently branding the state as a bastion of “freedom.”

In fact, if you hear about some “freedom” initiative being promoted by Gov. Ron DeSantis, you can bet he’s wrapping up his autocratic impulses in deceptive clothing again.

For example, did you know that we are now celebrating “Freedom Summer” in Florida?

We’re celebrating this “freedom” by mandating that, starting this month, all bridges must be lit at night in only three approved state colors — red, white and blue.

It’s not freedom. It’s color totalitarianism. Why?

Because “Freedom Summer” is really just an underhanded attempt to stop displays of Pride Month, which has taken the form of state-controlled bridges being illuminated in rainbow colors.

So yes, the annual celebration of freedom that LGBT people have in living their authentic lives is being eliminated by fiat in the name of “freedom.”

“We’re kicking off the summer the right way in Florida — enjoy the Summer of Freedom,” DeSantis posted on social media.

In other words, it would be wrong to celebrate Pride Month in its traditional way, and the only right lights on bridges in Florida during the month of June are red, white and blue ones.

That’s some next-level bigotry repurposed as freedom.

In other Florida “freedom” news, DeSantis announced this summer he is starting something called the “Florida Freedom Fund” to collect political donations in advance of the November elections.

Abortion protest sign held by protester outside the Paul G. Rogers Federal Building at U.S. Courthouse in West Palm Beach
Abortion protest sign held by protester outside the Paul G. Rogers Federal Building at U.S. Courthouse in West Palm Beach

“As Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to lead our great state, the Florida Freedom Fund will be championing issues and candidates committed to preserving Floridians' freedom,” his spokesperson announced.

OK, what issues will the Florida Freedom Fund be championing in order to preserve freedom for Floridians?

It will be collecting money to persuade voters on two key ballot amendments: One amendment would legalize recreational marijuana and the other would expand reproductive rights for women, and override the state’s restrictive 6-week abortion ban.

If you think the Florida Freedom Fund will be advocating for the expansion of freedom when it comes to access to pot and abortions, well, dream on.

No, the freedom fund will be lobbying against the expansion of personal freedom in both those areas. It’s another clear-cut abuse of the plain meaning of words.

Whether or not you agree with legalized pot or greater access to abortions, the reasons for opposing them are not because you’re a lover of “freedom.”

No, it’s the opposite. It’s because you’re a lover of curtailing other people’s freedom. If DeSantis was honest in his campaign fund, it would more accurately be called “The Florida We Control Your Bodies Fund” or something like that.

Meanwhile, in other freedom news, lawyers for the state have been arguing in court that professors teaching in the state university system can be fired for expressing opinions that are contrary to those supported by Florida's ruling political party.

A group of protestors organized by the Lee County GOP gathered before the Lee County school board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. They are protesting a flag hung up in a Riverdale High School classroom that they say violates The Stop Woke Act because it contains the words Black Lives Matter, and the LGBTQ+ and Trans flags. The Purple group, not pictured, who say they are non partisan advocates for public schools, teachers, educators and parents also gathered to show support for the teacher and flag in the school

This argument has been made in a legal challenge to the Florida Stop WOKE Act — which is formally named the Individual Freedom Act, in another abuse of the word “freedom.”

The law, passed two years ago and signed by DeSantis with great fanfare, has been on hold due to successful legal challenges over its assault on free speech.

The law would make it illegal for educators to offer viewpoints on concepts such as systemic racism, sexism, unconscious bias and white privilege that don’t comport with the views of DeSantis and the Republican-led legislature.

The law has been challenged by a variety of academic, civil rights, and free-speech groups that have accused the “individual freedom” law of codifying viewpoint discrimination.

In oral arguments in front of a panel of federal appeals court judges this month, Charles Cooper, a lawyer for the state, argued that Florida was within its rights to do that, The Florida Phoenix reported.

“Yes, because in the classroom, the professor’s speech is the government’s speech, and the government can restrict professors on a content-wide basis and restrict them from offering viewpoints that are contrary,” Cooper said, before being interrupted by a judge.

The judge asked whether it would be acceptable if Florida students were restricted to a completely different set of facts than students in other states with ideologically dissimilar lawmakers.

“That’s the genius of federalism, your honor,” Cooper answered. “These are state institutions and the states themselves get to make decisions on the content of the courses taught in their schools, and that includes viewpoints.”

Cooper said that professors had the option to leave Florida and teach in states that are “friendlier to their viewpoint.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis signs Stop Woke Act
Gov. Ron DeSantis signs Stop Woke Act

So for those of you keeping score at home:

● Gay Pride lights must be extinguished because of “Florida Freedom Summer.”

● Expanding personal access to legalized pot and abortion must be stopped by contributions to the Florida Freedom Fund.

● And professors who don’t espouse the political viewpoints of Florida ruling political party must either be silent or find work in another state, due to the state’s Individual Freedom Act.

So, the next time you hear the word “freedom” come out of DeSantis’ mouth, get ready for another heavy-handed assault on the English language and your liberties.

Frank Cerabino is a news columnist with The Palm Beach Post, which is part of the Gannett Newspapers chain.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Abusing the word "freedom" is par for the course in Florida