An Open Letter to Governor Ron DeSantis

Raphael Alegbeleye/PantherNOW

Robert Crohan/Staff Writer

Dear Governor, 

I must confess that I was not looking forward to writing this. For the most part, politics has not been a direct concern of mine, but recent events have opened my eyes up to just how crucial it is for people, and how lucky I am. We cannot treat voting, let alone existing, like a game.

You see, in researching politics, I have seen that through much of the past forty years some common perceptions have arisen regarding our leaders. Floridians like yourself are seen as the friendly authority figure: wants to reward with tax cuts and business-friendly policy, but is stern and won’t tolerate bad behavior. You would work hard to protect us while we relax on the beach, many of us as the final chapter of a life well spent.

The people of our great state have regarded you as this, but there comes a time when kindness can be excessive. Guys like you are political comfort food for many, but this crisis has pushed you to the brink, and we are not satisfied.

We are quite literally the world’s laughing stock. I have seen countless memes and online posts saying they called it—that this was inevitable. Everyone says Florida is the dumbest state and therefore must cope with its comeuppance. “Florida Man” is supposedly the average citizen now, and it breaks my heart to see not only Florida be hated more, but to see my fellow Floridians battered by the virus.

I know this outbreak is not entirely your fault or the President’s. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

Guys like you are political comfort food for many, but this crisis has pushed you to the brink, and we are not satisfied.

Gavin Newsom shut down early. Andrew Cuomo gave crucial safety advice. Mike DeWine was brutally honest. Larry Hogan stood up to failed federal leadership. You did none of this.

I want to give you the benefit of the doubt: I supported your opponent in 2018, but accepted his defeat and was looking forward to positive change under your leadership. The same is true regarding President Trump. I have much respect for you, your career in Congress and your military service. In some ways, we got it. Indeed, you winning 48% of Florida’s Latino vote was a positive sign that your party is opening up to new constituencies.

I am sure that this situation is stressful. Being governor, you must make potentially crippling decisions, bypassing the reporters, the scrutiny, the pressure from those not in your shoes. You must consider your advisors’ words but do not get a week to think about it. Here, you had the snap of a finger.

I will admit that I do not handle stress well: I tense up, breathe heavily, and attempt to distract myself from the situation. In positions of leadership, I have failed my team before and acknowledged it. Although I am improving, this is why I am learning to not seek political positions I cannot handle.

Maybe this is you, maybe it isn’t. Maybe a loved one died of the virus and their dying wish was to see Florida happy. 

This is in the makings of being the worst pandemic in history. When crises like this hit with full speed, we want comfort, but not your idea of it. We do not want to be told that everything is okay, that this will fade away in no time, that you have it under control. Because you don’t.

We want to be told that you are doing everything in your power. We want to be told that you are fixing the broken unemployment system. We want assistance for vulnerable citizens. We want reliable case numbers not altered to make us look good. We want a mask mandate. We want safety. 

I am realizing that one must tell the honest truth to those they love, even when it hurts.

Your allies have preached “harsh realities” over “imagination,” but this is real. For every moment where someone cries and holds their loved one’s hand, I cannot help but look to you for help.

As someone who is living with an immune-compromised sibling, it pains and offends me to see people not take this seriously. No masks, no distancing, no regard for others, even in state-operated facilities. I understand that this is the individual’s fault, but you can help by being assertive about public safety and protecting those who voted you into office, as many of our mayors are doing. Indeed, many of your 2018 voters seem to trust you.

I want this to end. I wake up every day hoping that my dream of it ending is reality.

Many of my friends are running low on benefits because they lost their jobs and livelihoods. You promised to fight for all Floridians, but the promise seems to have not been kept. Given how you surprised many of us with good leadership before this crisis, we must remind you that you took the oath to serve faithfully as governor.

Perhaps you can follow the examples of conservative heroes like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, of public health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, of our recently fallen Civil Rights heroes John Lewis and Dr. C.T. Vivian, all of whom protected their country during unspeakable crises. These are the people we should look to for inspiration. Not President Trump, who continues to play golf while Americans suffer and China’s government laughs. 

Before I close this, I want to mention another American leader: Jimmy Carter. He was not a perfect president and much like you, he was faced with mounting crises he could not handle. But much of my respect for him stems from his attitude: he seems to have done what he thought was right, not what he thought would get himself reelected. He would go on to lose dramatically, but years later, this example can help leave a better mark on your administration than you may have had up your sleeve.

I want this to end. I wake up every day hoping that my dream of it ending is reality. It has ruined and destroyed so many lives, people I love, communities that shaped me into who I am today. Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee, Tampa, Kissimmee, Jacksonville, Melbourne, Palm Beach, Broward, Clearwater, Clermont, Pensacola, the Villages, Hialeah: this is Florida. This is home. This is a state that has persevered through countless crises. And this is the epicenter of the pandemic. You’re in charge. Do your job.

Sincerely, a concerned resident.


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