Sunday, September 19, 2021
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Florida, frontier of freedom from the mask

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THE governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, is confronting perhaps as difficult a decision as any statesman has ever faced, and with at least as much at stake. His is one of a handful of states which have tried to keep life almost normal through the dark times when others have been locking down as hard as they dare. However, Covid figures in Florida are reaching record highs. Currently it is estimated that the state accounts for 20 per cent of all the USA’s cases.

These are ‘cases’. They are not necessarily infections and many may not be very serious. Although it is true that hospitalisations are also going up quite quickly, even the worst-pressed administrators admit that plenty of hospital space remains, even if it comes to using areas which have not often been used to contain beds. It should be noted that despite the rise in cases, deaths are only one third as high as at this time last year when there was also a surge in Florida.

However of course the dark forces are jubilant about the escalation of cases.

Democrats of all stripes who have been promising that anti-lockdown Republican states will get their comeuppance are saying ‘I told you so’. School boards, presumably inspired by their unions, are pressuring DeSantis to enforce a mask mandate even though in Florida, as elsewhere, there seems no correlation between mask wearing and case number reduction. One or two counties and school boards, probably encouraged by the federal government, are rebelling and trying to impose a mask mandate despite their governor’s prohibition. And we know this will be only a first step towards New York-style lockdowns and vaccination passports, which are currently illegal in Florida.

If DeSantis is to survive this massive challenge from every quarter, he will need to maintain nerves of steel. Yet it is imperative for democracy as we have known it that he should. It is not just Florida’s destiny that is on the line. All of us who long for a free world rather than a New Normal are watching Florida, and so are all the forces that hate freedom and long to see the anti-lockdown states and countries fall. Florida, like Sweden and South Dakota, has provided incalculable encouragement to resistance movements throughout the world. The tenacity of Ron DeSantis could play a huge part in the fight for freedom.

Other Republican-held states which have largely held out against the mask and lockdown orthodoxy are under pressure, too. Texas and Arkansas are facing rebellions from Democrat-led school boards and other institutions. I suspect they may cave in should Governor DeSantis yield. If this happens, the future of genuine freedom of speech and action in the USA and the world will look bleak.

Thankfully, there remains considerable encouragement for DeSantis to resist the pressure.

As the end of July approached, South Dakota’s governor Kristi Noem was continuing to defend the people of her state against mask mandates and lockdowns. This was her position on July 27: ‘South Dakota’s cases remain low. If you’re worried about the virus, you’re free to get vaccinated, wear a mask, or stay at home. But we won’t be mandating anything.’

Governor Noem has remained consistent from the beginning. She held tight even during a time when South Dakota was going through the sort of problems DeSantis is facing. She protected her state’s economy and the well-being of her people by maintaining her belief that the graphs would turn.

To his great credit, at the present moment the Florida governor is publicly maintaining the same belief, and he may well have the necessary resilience and obstinacy to hold firm.

Moreover, if DeSantis should turn his eyes to the east, he could find encouragement in a most unexpected place, namely England. It is nearly two weeks since Boris Johnson, despite huge pressure from Sage, the school unions, the Labour Party and all the usual suspects, failed to renege on his promise to ‘set England free’ on July 19. Admittedly, he came pretty darn close, and he continues to brandish  the threat of Covid passports. But he did remove the mask mandate and – guess what? – hundreds of thousands of Covid deaths and hospitalisations that were ‘inevitable’ didn’t happen. In fact, overall mortality in England relative to other years continues to dwindle.

A fluke? Maybe, but if Florida’s governor can take courage from England and remain firm until the capricious Covid tide in his state turns, his example may begin to illuminate the world’s path back to freedom from the real threat of totalitarianism.

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The Freeshooter
The Freeshooter is retired, writes novels and listens to Germanic opera.

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