Well shut my mouth…again

Did I ever tell you how I ended up in GNV?

Funny story. Well, serendipitous anyway.

It was the early 1970s. I was fresh out of the navy and armed with the GI Bill, so I had the means to become the first in my family to get a college education.

I was on my way…..to Colorado.

Wait, what?

Yeah, Colorado.

For the very simple reason that having grown up in the humid South Florida flatlands I longed for snowy peaks and awesome vistas.

And listen, heading to college I knew I was going to get high anyway. So why not Rocky Mountain high?

Long story short (I always say that) I was piling up college credits at Broward Community College when I heard the news.

No, not the news that Jimmy Buffet had gone missing in Colorado wearing only his Hush Puppies.

I mean the news that some kid named Ron Sachs might go to jail for committing the felony crime of publishing illegal information.

Illegal abortion referral information to be precise.

Listen, I didn’t know Sachs from Adam (although I met him years later and he seemed like a perfectly nice guy to me).

Neither did I know much about The Alligator. And as for GNV, well, it sounded like something of a quaint backwater to an ex-sailor who went to France and…never mind, that’s a story for another time.

But I digress.

Sachs never did go to jail for violating a 1868 law that prohibited publishing abortion information. Said law being in obvious contempt of the First Amendment, the young Alligator insurrectionists basically said “we dare you!” And the state declined to take the dare.

But the Alligator did get kicked off campus.

Which is how I ended up in GNV (“Hey, look, cornfields!” I noted the first time I got off I-75 and drove past a Santa Fe College campus that looked like a scene right out of “Green Acres”.)

How could I not want to work for a student newspaper that, having laughed in the face of the full force and weight of the Florida criminal justice system, suddenly found itself challenged to go it alone without the benefit of UF funding?

Goodbye mountains. Hello GNV!

Anyway, that was half a century ago. And I’m happy to say that both me and the Independent Florida Alligator are still alive and kicking.

So why take this stroll down memory lane now?

Because lately I’ve been thinking that the more things change the more they stay the same.

Last week I read a New York Times piece written by two law professors, Michael Goodwin and Mary Ziegler titled “The next anti-abortion tactic: Attacking the spread of information.”

“Now that abortion has been banned in more than a dozen states, abortion opponents want to stoke confusion about the legality of not just having an abortion, but even of discussing the procedure. The ultimate goal seems to be ensuring that women are unclear about their options to obtain an abortion or contraception, in their home state or elsewhere,” they wrote.

Like it’s 1868 all over again.

I’d like to think that our First Amendment protections are stronger now than they were half a century ago. But events keep proving me wrong. And we don’t have to look far for examples.

Why is it that the “freest state in America” is so eager to trash our First Amendment freedoms?

This is a state that made it illegal for doctors to talk about guns with their patients. (The courts threw it out.)

Florida is the proud home of a “dystopian Stop Woke Act” law that tramps all over the free speech rights of educators and private employers alike.

And then there’s our not-so-benevolent dictator in the governor’s office who was happy to suspend a Democrat prosecutor, not for something he did or did not do, but for something he said.

And who was delighted to go to war against Disney because their employees had the effrontery to take actual positions on actual issues of the day.

Oh, and not to forget the good bureaucrats at the Department of Management Services who want to snuff out the free speech rights of demonstrators in the interest of protecting children from “harmful materials.”

And seriously? Banning math textbooks for containing “prohibited topics”! Woke algebra?

So, no, it’s no stretch to imagine that our “Free State Of Florida” politicians might one day again try to make it illegal to publish abortion referral information. The thought police are out in force in Tallahassee, and Ron DeSanctimonious (thanks for that, The Donald) thinks the First Amendment exists for the sole purpose of raking in as much dark and dirty campaign cash as he can get his greedy paws on.

Listen, my bones are too old for Colorado winters now. So I guess I’ll stay put.

And hope that the next generation of young journalists will be as diligent (militant?) about defending our First Amendment rights as young Sachs and his Alligator staffers were.

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