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Making America Soviet

June 2, 2023

So now the book banners have come for Amanda Gorman. Well, poets are dangerous, aren’t they? Especially if they’re young, gifted and Black.

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

For those just awaking from hibernation, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has approved the removal of Amanda Gorman’s poem and book, "The Hill We Climb," from a public elementary school library, based on a complaint from one white woman, who acknowledged that she never read the poem.

Ms. Gorman, then 22, read her poem at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, two weeks after the failed Republican insurrection. She said afterward that she had been scared to do it, because she knew “I was going to become highly visible — which is a very dangerous thing to be in America, especially if you’re Black and outspoken and have no Secret Service.”

Here are reports on this from USA TodayLos Angeles TimesThe Guardian and The New York Times.

Book bans now are a slimy spear in the hands of the Republican Party, along with criminally enforced dress codes, religious bigotry, voter suppression, gerrymandering and outright violence.

Book bans are the clearest indication that the Republican Party today wants nothing at all resembling freedom; it wants enforced conformity. It has become a carbon copy of the old Soviet Union — with a Great Leader and slavering apparatchiks, seeking rewards.

DeSantis and his fellow Republicans, such as Greg Abbott in Texas, want to prohibit the study of history: just as Xi Jinping in China prohibits the study — or even mention — of the millions of deaths in the famine produced by Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution; and Vladimir Putin would erase from history the millions of deaths from crimes of Stalin.

Just so, DeSantis, Abbott et al. would prohibit American children from studying — nay, even knowing about — the millions of deaths from the slave trade, followed by centuries of sloth and aiding and abetting by Congress, state legislatures and the Supreme Court.

Book bans are not just an assault upon memory; they prohibit memory — prohibit quest for knowledge — under threat of criminal prosecution: of librarians.

Who among us has feared a librarian? Yet millions of gun-totin’ right-wing Republican True Believers seem to think that prohibition of knowledge — promotion of ignorance — will lead them to bliss, with their guns.

Well, I wouldn’t call that bliss, but then, I’m not as unhappy as the True Believers seem to be. I never blamed my unhappiness on anyone but myself.

Most of the things the True Believers are told to fear are not actually things; they are just scary ideas implanted in their imaginations — monsters from the id. But how could the True Believers know that, with so little knowledge of U.S. history? 

DeSantis preaches to his groupies that words (which he calls things) that may be minor annoyances — such as the way other people think — are a mortal danger to us all.

DeSantis said this week that he plans to “destroy leftism.”

What does that mean? 

That he will destroy unions? 

Destroy public education? 

Medicare? Social Security? Public hospitals? The Environmental Protection Agency? The NAACP? The teachers’ unions? That he will finally solve “the Negro Problem”?

No, what he and the goose-stepping “Freedom Caucus” want to do is make America smaller than it is.

Are any of the right-wing poltroons in Congress actually fighting for their lives?

Have any of them actually suffered? 

And if so, what? Progressive taxation?

The fact that other people do not think precisely the same way I do does not make me suffer. I am a sane adult. All I hear is the whining of entitled brats.

These people are not just fighting shadows: They are shadows. The words they invoke — freedom, “woke-ism,” liberty — do not represent real things; they are just words.

Just so, our realities — racism, police killings, judicial corruption, state executions of innocent people — are not reality to the True Believers: they are just words. Yet should their breast-beating Christian ayatollahs be elected, they could turn those words into facts. 

DeSantis et al. claim to be soldiers for a mythical America, but what they want to be is policemen — above all, policemen who shoot deserters from their imaginary army.

But who is the worst sort of man — a deserter, or the one who shoots deserters?

These people are not in a struggle; they’re in a show.

They are not fighting anything; they’re whining.

They are consumed by fear and hatred, willfully ignorant of reality, while they prate about Christian love.

If DeSantis and his groupies truly harbor any Christian love in the tin cups they use as their hearts, it is no more than the 1,800-year-old prayer of the young, lecherous Augustine of Hippo: “God, make me pure — but not yet.”

Not until we destroy a few more things.

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