Friday, September 29, 2023

Florida balances optimism after the riots


In the days following the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, student newspapers were flooded with stories about the day’s events—from the armed assault to the threats on the lives of elected officials, from the president’s speech prior to the violence to the news coverage. Our attention turns now to students in Florida.

“It was one of the darkest days in American history,” Raquelle Elson at the Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa quoted a history teacher at the school as saying. “I don’t care what political party you belong to. That is not how we act as citizens of the United States of America. We are a country that is founded on a set of beliefs that are reflected in our Constitution, a series of laws that protects all citizens and ensures our democracy. As Thomas Paine said: ‘The president is not king. The law is king.'”

But reporters’ political parties seem to have tainted news reporting about the event and its precursors in the nation’s political discourse. She points out that “news” reporting from Fox News calls President-elect Joe Biden “weak” and “corrupt,” even as reporters entertain claims of a “stolen election.” CNN, on the other hand, slings accusations of “lawlessness” and “lying” against President Donald Trump, “calling his supporters ‘extremists.'”

All of that “emotional rhetoric” boiled over in a pressure cooker, she writes, and that’s how January 6 happened.

Hundreds of students from Florida and around the world shared their outrage, anger, fear, and disgust with The New York Times. Remaining objective has been hard for teenagers, but some students found a way to inject optimism into their views.

Asher Montgomery at Hillsborough High School in Tampa provided some industrious reporting and reached out to US Representative Charlie Crist, a Democrat from Florida’s 13th District, though he was once the Republican governor of the state. He told students to participate in democracy when they get the chance. “It’s this generation’s turn next to protect democracy,” Ms Montgomery paraphrased the congressman as saying. “Just pay attention. Don’t be demoralized, and stay optimistic,” Mr Crist told the student newspaper.

As Florida residents may know, Mr Crist is the author of the 2014 book The Party’s Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat.

It may have been years in the making and unsurprising to many observers, but the insurrection on January 6 was, in most student writers’ opinions, a result of false claims about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election—not about the other votes on the exact same ballots as the vote for president and vice president.

“The buildup of claims of fraud and encouragement of many led to the historical disgrace that occurred yesterday,” wrote Daniela Carrasco at East Hall High School in Gainesville. “The world watches as the future of the political climate in the United States reaches a point of uncertainty never seen before.”

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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