Fifty-two years ago, I was completing a required high school course called “Americanism vs. Communism” at my segregated high school, Forest Hill in West Palm Beach. I now read that our governor, Ron DeSantis, signed a bill into law recently that mandates teaching about the “victims of communism.” I guess that Mark Twain was right when he said that “history doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.”
In hindsight, and at a less impressionable age, I realize the course I took was nothing less than naked propaganda due to anti-communist hysteria at the time. It was taught by a man, now deceased, who was ignorant of his subjects but charismatic. He spoke with such authority and without equivocation that most of his students thought he was omniscient and should run for president. He brought in the leader of the local branch of the John Birch Society and once told us he would not sell his house to a Black family because he “wouldn’t do that to his neighbors.”
Quotes from Karl Marx’s "Communist Manifesto" were the basis of the parts on communism, even though the then-communist regimes’ (the U.S.S.R., China and others) systems of government deviated widely from Marx’s formula. They were indeed repressive but that was not the point: America = virtuously moral; communism = evil.
Our governor wants our children to learn of the “hundreds of millions of individuals who have suffered and continue to suffer” under communism. “Honoring the people that have fallen victim to communist regimes and teaching our students about those atrocities is the best way to ensure that history does not repeat itself,” the governor said last month.
This is rich, coming from a man who doesn’t want children to learn of the horrors of our history of slavery. After all, he signed a law that banned teaching critical race theory, which has never been taught at any public school in Florida. American history in Florida is being further sanitized (or should I say “whitewashed”?) before it reaches the public school classroom so it will not be “woke” and not hurt some white students’ feelings.
DeSantis could learn a few lessons in “Americanism,” just as my high school teacher could have. He should learn about the First Amendment, which protects Walt Disney’s right to free speech. It also protects the right to peaceably assemble, which DeSantis wanted to abridge after the George Floyd demonstrations.
The real threat to the ideals of Americanism, especially those in the Bill of Rights, is DeSantis’ shameless and unbridled ambition.
Richard Rampell is a retired certified public accountant in Palm Beach.
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This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Richard Rampell: Gov. Ron DeSantis could learn a few lessons