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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/4/21

DeSantis' Anti-Mask Order Is Replaying Reagan's Phony "Rugged Individualism"

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American conservatism has been a scam since the 1920s, and continues to exclusively benefit the very white and the very wealthy

Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
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Ron DeSantis' executive order making it illegal for teachers to require kids in their classrooms to wear masks to protect the teacher and other kids in the class (and their families) isn't about masks.

If it was about masks and their health potential, pro or con, he'd be discussing how to reduce the transmission of this deadly virus in Florida, which now accounts for more than 20% of all new COVID cases in America.

At the very least, he'd be showing for concern about the seven children currently fighting for their lives in the ICU at the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Broward County. Instead, when asked about those children yesterday, he dumped a load of word-salad gibberish on the reporter who asked the question:

"This has been a really negative thing throughout this whole thing, with some of these, quote, experts, some of the media, somebody can contract a highly transmissible airborne virus and they're viewed as having done something wrong. That's just not the way you do it."

But the survival of Florida citizens isn't what DeSantis' anti-mask executive order is all about. Instead, it's about brand identity.

"Self-reliance" and "rugged individualism" are the brands that brought Ronald Reagan to power, first as governor of California and later as President of the United States. His logos were a horse and a smile, always able to turn a complex issue into a folksy fable with a simple moral.

Truly self-reliant individuals, the mythology goes, should be able to survive without a wimpy mask, and if they don't, well, they just weren't all that rugged.

Buried just one thin layer under the surface, Reagan's new brand for the GOP rested on the all-American foundation of white privilege and Manifest Destiny, a hideous grinning skull representing 300 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow and the most massive genocide of Native peoples in the history of the world.

It embraced the idea that white people who "won the west" stole all that Indian land by themselves when the Indian genocide actually cost America billions in today's dollars of military expense and massive subsidies, including the trans-pacific railroad to get supplies to settlers.

Just the veteran's benefits paid to Americans who fought in the Indian Extermination Wars totaled over $118 million (or $3 billion, inflation adjusted from 1913 dollars) between 1893 and 1957, all to provide for 372,659 homesteads. And the story of the people who were slaughtered always seems to get lost, other than the occasional misty Dances With Wolves cultural tip-of-the-hat.

Similarly, three hundred years of unpaid labor by enslaved people brought here against their will are never counted toward the "success" of white people during America's early years.

Even in the North, though, they knew at the time the value of all that slave labor: the Mayor of New York City proposed in 1861 that the city join the South in seceding from the union because Wall Street's single largest source of profit was the export of cotton picked and processed by enslaved people.

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)

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