by Joe Courter
The past two headlines of the Iguana: “Well that sucked” and “Horrors,” both reflected the Florida legislature ramming their agenda through. I realize wrong feelings might have been conveyed. Yes it’s about what they are doing, but it needs to imply what we can do. Not having hope is a block to living a meaningful life. Finding purpose and committing to it is a key, whatever path you choose.
Although fair elections are under attack, we still have the vote, and it is up to us to organize and make our greater numbers count. In state after state, as the Right tries to criminalize women’s healthcare, ballot measures to resist these efforts have been winning; not just Ohio, as the cover story says, but California, Michigan, Vermont, Kansas, Kentucky and Montana. Coming up in 2024 are Maryland and New York, as well as maybe seven others, including Florida (see pg. 26).
Remember, although DeSantis convincingly won here last time, it was Democrats staying home, not a big Republican turnout that gave him the big win. Given hope and purpose, we can win elections.
Another cause for hope? The lower courts and judges. Extreme measures on restricting abortion and LGBTQ+ rights are often being blocked in the courts. Lawyers are successfully arguing cases and judges are siding with them. And now as the cases against Donald Trump start reaching courtroom stages, there seems to be a very wise strategy playing out … yes painfully slowly, but there seems to be coordinating as to when they are brought forward. Positive rulings on unfair redistricting cases are occurring as well.
Yes, the evidence of climate change continues to grow and manifest in unusual weather patterns, but it is becoming more accepted as real. Can we reverse it? Probably not, but denial may be displaced by the reality that we both need to adapt and be ready to deal with the negative consequences of our rather excessive energy consumptive lifestyle.
There was a very real court victory in Montana, where thanks to a state law regarding the protection of the environment, the court found that young people have a constitutional right to a healthful environment and that the state must consider potential climate damage when approving projects. (See “In Praise of Montana’s Climate Kids by Bill McKibben at tinyurlcom/Iguana1675)
This is where a lot of my hopes are based, the young people who are looking ahead to their very future, taking pages from the past, and reinvigorating the labor movement. Springing off another youth lead endeavor, the Occupy Movement, which created the concept of the 99%, we saw a huge bloom of youth activism when Bernie Sanders ran for President in 2016. He talked directly to their future, their needs and desires, and inspired so many. There were huge campus rallies, including here in Gainesville. They did not go away when the Democratic Party did not embrace Bernie’s campaign. They found other ways to contribute – some I know became union organizers. I attended the Central Labor Council’s Labor Day breakfast today, and there they were, central people in the Communication Workers and the Electrical Workers union and in the CLC itself. Unions were decimated under Reagan, and overall membership is down, yes. But polling show unions with a 3/4 positive rating. Under Biden the NLRB is enacting many improvements to the ability of unions to organize (see pg. 14).
It is not just through unions that young people are acting on public good. I see it at the Civic Media Center, with direct actions for food assistance and other solidarity being organized with poor and disadvantaged people. I see the shedding of societal prejudice and negative feelings against the LGBTQ+ community, and a deep embracing of our diversity. The repression advocated by leaders like DeSantis, the academic censorship and attacks on teachers and professors is being seen and resisted, likewise in Tennessee with the public’s resistance to not acting against gun violence. We all need to call out the BS with them, organize, and move forward, in whatever ways we can.