Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Fight Indifference


The NAACP, Human Rights Campaign, League of United Latin American Citizens, Florida Immigrant Coalition and Equality Florida have all issued travel warnings for the state of Florida. Currently, 4 nations – UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand - have warnings regarding gun violence in America though only New Zealand places that warning at a level 2, advising increased caution. The others leave their threat assessment level at their lowest rank. It’s only been a week since DeSantis signed the anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law. While the organizations listed above have issued travel warnings to their members, no nation has issued similar. 

Florida gets a lot of money from tourism. “Florida is one of the most popular states in the U.S. for tourists, and tourism is one of its biggest industries. More than 137.5 million tourists visited Florida last year, marking a return to pre-pandemic levels, according to Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion agency. Tourism supports 1.6 million full-time and part-time jobs, and visitors spent $98.8 billion in Florida in 2019, the last year figures are available.”

Seems to me that the way to change the direction Florida seems heel bent on taking is to hit them where it hurts. Disney has already done this by pulling out of a $1 billion development project. It’s just the latest volley in the Disney-DeSantis feud. More companies need to follow their lead. 

Meanwhile, DeSantis is scheduled to announce his run for the presidency on May 24. His Republican supporters in the Florida Lege added a nifty little clause to a recent elections bill that says he doesn’t have to resign to run for higher office. So, if he fails to beat Trump in the primaries, he’ll still be Governor. Sounds kinda like when Putin changed the rules so he could remain in power back in 2021. 

In case you’re wondering, I’m not the only one sending up red flags regarding the rise of Fascism in America. Robert Reich wrote today, “What the GOP’s vendetta against the LGBTQ community really is, is a classic authoritarian tactic to vilify already marginalized people. This is how fascism takes root.” It’s not the first time Reich, former US Secretary of Labor under Clinton, has warned about our turn towards fascism. 

We are no longer dealing with politics as we have come to understand it — as I have seen and practiced it over the last half century: Democrats versus Republicans, liberals versus conservatives, left versus right. In this old form of politics, compromise was expected and often necessary. It is now democracy versus authoritarianism. There can be no compromise. And there must not be silence.”

He's right. We’ve witnessed many instances in last few decades where the ideas put forth by Martin Niemoeller came into focus again:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

We thought about when we would be called to stand up in defense of others. The Black Lives Matter movement, Immigration “reform”, Muslims after 9/11, and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, particularly Transgender, are all times when Niemoeller was evoked. 

Elie Wiesel is famous for saying, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Together these two statements are an indictment of one nation’s behavior during WW2. Today, we’re faced with a similar situation in America. We cannot remain intentionally ignorant because we are not targeted. It is essential that we speak out against oppression, authoritarianism, and hate. We must remember how to think for ourselves, make our own decisions and find fellow travelers on this increasingly dangerous path that is the fight against fascism.

Wiesel also said, “the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. The opposite of faith is not arrogance by indifference; the opposite of culture is not ignorance but indifference; the opposite of art is not ugliness but indifference. And the opposite of peace is indifference to both peace and war—indifference to hunger and persecution, to imprisonment and humiliation, indifference to torture and persecution.”

Let us shed our indifference and stand up in defense of our fellow Americans.

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