'A little uncomfortableness from Jodi Picoult': Ex-Navy officer denounces 'fascist' Florida book bans

'A little uncomfortableness from Jodi Picoult': Ex-Navy officer denounces 'fascist' Florida book bans
Wes Rexrode, Image via Screengrab/MSNBC.

Thanks to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, book bans have taken over schools across the Sunshine State in the name of protecting students from a "woke agenda."

For months, educators both in and out of state have spoken out against the governor's attempt to control what kids read. Now, retired Navy officer Wes Rexrode, a 54-year-old single father of a 14-year-old son, is doing the same.

Rexrode, who was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt on September 11, 2001, voiced his opposition to book bans during a Martin County, Florida school board meeting earlier this week. He explained to The Daily Beast why speaking out matters to him.

READ MORE: 'Drunk with power': Author Judy Blume shreds Ron DeSantis over draconian book bans

This comes after GOP billionaire Thomas Peterffy recently stopped donating to DeSantis specifically in response to the right-wing governor's move to ban books.

Per The Daily Beast, Rexrode told the school board meeting attendees that "I want my son exposed to different ideas and different viewpoints so that he can learn to think critically and not be force-fed somebody else's opinion. We've all been exposed to different opinions. It makes us better, makes us stronger."

He went on to ask the audience, "Remember the Little Rock 9? If those kids could endure a year of people spitting on them and hating them just to go to school, just to get an education, our kids can deal with a little uncomfortableness from Jodi Picoult or Toni Morrison.”

While speaking to The Daily Beast about what led him to publicly oppose DeSantis' book bans, he said, "I started remembering what books meant to me and how they helped me."

READ MORE: GOP donor stops funding DeSantis over book-banning crusade

The retired Navy officer recalled growing up in rural South Carolina, noting, "books got me out of the trailer parks," and that his "parents trusted those educators and the librarians to let me read what I needed to read."

He told The Daily Beast, "And the whole notion of deciding what other people's kids can and cannot read seemed a manifestation of domestic fascism that is too much like what he had spent a decade combating. My philosophy is, 'If something goes against my beliefs, I can't do that.' But increasingly we've seen a lot of, 'If that goes against my beliefs, YOU can't do that. And I'm sorry, but that's not America.'"

Rexrode insisted, "I don't need anyone else telling my son what he can and cannot read. I'm perfectly capable of doing that myself."

Recognizing the importance of allowing his son to "follow his own path," Rexrode added, "I look at my job as a parent as putting up the guardrails. You can't protect him from everything."

Rexrode also reflected on his time in service, recalling, "Religious fanatics, who wouldn't even let women be educated, flew planes into the World Trade Center and my Pentagon. I spent the last decade of my naval career fighting religious fascism abroad. I never thought I'd have to fight it right here in the United States of America."

He noted that "diversity made me stronger" and emphasized that "I didn't sacrifice 21 years of my life to stand idly by while religious fanatics and other fanatics try to impose fascism on my country."

READ MORE: How books can be used to build up America or to divide it

The Daily Beast's full report is available at this link (subscription required).

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