THERE’S ONLY ONE REASONABLE APPROACH TO FASCISM–DISOBEDIENCE!
The Free State of DeSantis, previously known as Florida, is no place for teachers…at least not for teachers who wish to encourage critical thinking and exploration among their students. Recent laws regarding Critical Race Theory, gender affirmation, LGBTQ+ issues are conspicuously vague in their wording, yet the application is clear. Parents can sue me if I’m teaching Critical Race Theory, for instance. But what does that mean? Critical Race Theory is, of course, not on the curriculum, but I teach sociology and economics, so it’s not unusual for me to discuss matters of structural racism. It’s not unusual for me to touch upon issues that are critical of American Power–traditionally white.
Is structural racism considered Critical Race Theory? Is a critical analysis of American policy a violation of a law that specifies that I can only teach that the United States was founded on the principles elaborated in the founding documents? Does it matter what I think because any parent can interpret what I’m doing in such a way that they may sue me?
In response to these vague laws, school districts all over Florida are writing policy in self-defense. Some, like my own district, have a policy whereby students cannot be referred to by a name (theoretically, any name, including nicknames) that is not specified on the official roster. If a student wishes to be called by a name different from the official roster they must have signed parental consent filed with the school. This equitable sounding language is clearly targeted toward transgendered students, many of whom are not ready to or may even have a reasonable fear for coming out to their parents.
Many school districts, in response to regressive parental activism, are removing books from their shelves and even instituting review processes before books can be released to students. Teachers like myself, who take pride in having a “reading rich” environment in their classrooms, are facing the prospect of having their classroom libraries pared down to just those books approved by the district.
I was reading one story, perhaps on Facebook, of a teacher who walked into their classroom one morning to find their bookshelf covered with a tarp, with a note that books were not to be accessible to students until each passed a formal review process.
When I shared this story with a colleague she responded, “well, I’ll just remove every book from my classroom! I don’t need this aggravation!” Imagine a classroom without books. That the Free State of DeSantis!
I disagreed, however. “Not me,” I said. “I’m going to double the amount of books in my classroom.”
She looked at me and I pointed out that “Tarps can be cut!”
Let them cover my room with tarps and seal my shelves with duct tape while they review hundreds of books for approval. And I will push the process.
In the meantime, every single tarp will be sliced open. Razors beat Tarps any day of the week. If they don’t want my students to have access to these books, they can physically remove them. But since those books are my personal property, they’ll have to return them unless they go through due process. If they remove all of my books, I’ll go to a thrift shop and buy more books the very next day. I will burden this process and make the fascists and their willing collaborators pay for every step.
I’ll also make it visible to my students. They will see what fascism looks like–books sealed off behind tarps and tape. Empty bookshelves. Books crated away for review by some central agency.
Furthermore, my students will see what resistance looks like. Cut tarps. Restored shelves. If necessary, teachers escorted from school property for daring to fight for their students’ right to read!
Because there is only one reasonable response to fascism.
Conforming to fascist law is collaboration with Fascists. There’s no middle ground here. There’s no room to compromise. Once we start making the little compromises–it’s just a couple of books from a classroom library–we are practicing to make the big compromises–maybe it’s better to just throw my books in the fire and not rock the boat.
Students might as well learn that lesson now, as fascism looms in their future. Teachers must be the vanguard in guiding the next generation into resistance against authoritarianism.
This will be a challenge for many teachers who disagree with fascism, but are inclined to follow the rules laid down for them. It’s easy to go along. Teachers have an incentive to just do what they are told. This is especially true in Florida, where teachers lost tenure protections a decade ago. After all, fear is another tell-tale sign of rising fascism.
The fight is not over
Many of us are breathing a sigh of relief that the Midterms showed that Americans, by and large, reject authoritarianism, paranoia, and conspiracy theory.
By and large…
…but not completely.
We need to remember that fascism did have a good night in one place.
Yep. Florida. The Free State of DeSantis!
Overall, Americans rejected the kind of boisterous, in your face, carnival barker fascism embodied by the Orange Don. However, the kind of calculated fascism, combined with administrative competence and enough carrots to mitigate the image of the stick, embodied by Florida’s Ron DeSantis, did very well.
Fascism is not in decline in the United States. It is being redirected away from the emotionally charged, center-stage, fascist aesthetic that built the movement. The next stage may very well be a right-wing technocratic, back-room executive style fascism that offers tangible benefits and administrative competence on the front stage, while pulling the rug out from under liberal democracy from the back stage.
This fight is not over. So, those of us tasked with implementing these regressive policies must figure out just how dedicated we are to being an obstacle to fascism, a grain of sand in the authoritarian regime.
Addendum: November 21, 2022
After writing this post, I read this article on why Paul Ryan is a “Never Again OrangeManBabier.” It should come as no surprize that the former Speaker declared his opposition to the former president for all the wrong reasons:
This was a similar assessment to others in the GOP, like Senator Lindsey Graham–Arguably the lickiest and lappiest of the former Presidents licky lap dogs. It seems there’s a line of Republican passengers trying desperately to get off the Orange Train to Fascism.
That’s not to say they are no longer willing to go to fascism. They just don’t want to do it on that particular gaudy, gold-plated train. They are all pointing out that they loved the direction the nation was going under the Orange Don. They just had a problem with the aesthetic of it all.
Of course! If the former president could have just been more polite. If he could have been kinder. If he only had a better personality, the journey to fascism would have been much more palatable.
It may be good news that the GOP is finally turning its back on this clownish carnival barker turned president of the United States. We should not, however, consider this good news. We should certainly not breathe a sigh of relief that the “crisis of democracy” is averted.
First, we’ve seen this before. Every time we think that the Orange Man Baby has finally crossed the line, will finally be abandoned by his party, it turns out that we were wrong, and he emerges stronger than ever. Perhaps this time really will be different, but I’ll believe it When I see it.
then if the party turns their back on this demagogue, they are all but admitting that they are willing future brides for the next demagogue who brings them flowers.
Maybe this next demagogue will be nicer. Maybe he’ll be more competent. Maybe he’ll have a better personality and can win elections. Maybe, instead of a gaudy, gold-plated train to fascism the GOP can fly the fascist skies.
The GOP is embracing the wrong incentives. Instead of denouncing authoritarianism — if they are unwilling to call it fascism, so be it — they are denouncing losing. They are clearly willing to go along with authoritarianism if it means winning elections.
Since the beginning it was never really about he will will go unnamed. It was always about rallying the monstrous elements of the of right-wing into a cohesive and competitive movement. Now that that is done, it will take significant sacrifice on the part of the conservative establishment to red itself of the paranoid bloc. The GOP is not willing to make this kind of sacrifice.
Unfortunately, this further confirms my observations in this post. The Republican Party is divided. On one hand we have the authoritarians who are driving the party. On the other hand we have those who are willing to go along with the authoritarians because they are too cowardly to confront the MAGA mob or are fearful of losing an election.
If they are willing to embrace fascism if it means winning elections, then it is necessary for those of us who embrace democracy to make sure that they never win another election.