wasting bandwidth since 1999

I Am Woke (Adjacent)

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In this past election cycle, our governor and his friends threw the term “woke” at lots of people. After a while, it started to reminded me of the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons: wokewokewokewokewokewokewokewokewokewokewokewoke.

The term is pretty much an all-purpose “insult”, to be thrown back anyone who disagrees with them.

Which, I guess, would include me.

To be honest, I can’t tell you what “woke” means. I doubt any two people who use it constantly would be able to offer a coherent definition.

But as far as I can tell, the intended insult is supposed to be applied to someone who is actually paying attention to what’s happening around them.

The people who have empathy towards those less fortunate and want our leaders finding ways to improve their lives.

And those of us who believe in banning books is intellectually wrong. Who want all students to have access to a broad range of thoughts and ideas, especially while they’re in high school and college.

Then is the majority of Americans who believe women should have control over their own reproductive rights. That climate change is real, a growing threat, and something we need to seriously address. 

Anyway, all this of woke crap by the we-hate-everything-positive crowd reminded me of The West Wing. Specifically, a scene from a seventh (and final) season episode called The Debate.

The program featured a fictional debate (broadcast live) between the Democratic candidate for president Matt Santos and his Republican opponent, Arnold Vinick.1

At one point, Santos objects to Vinick throwing the term “liberal” at him like it was a crime. Santos then goes into a monologue where he lists some of the ways liberals have pushed the country forward (like the Civil Rights Act and Social Security), while Republicans have tried to hold it back. He says he would wear the term liberal as a “badge of honor”.

You can call me a liberal, with or without the sneer. I prefer the term “progressive” since it implies a desire to move society forward rather than holding it back. But either way, I will also claim it.

Calling me “woke” is more an insult to the speaker, who probably can’t define it anyway, than it is to me, but go ahead.

Whatever the label, I’m hopeful that all of the cruelty, insensitivity, and regressive policies that accompanies that term is waking up a lot of the indifferent and apathetic voters in this country. Convincing them of the need to turn out in force for elections and send these people into the dustbin of history.


When it comes to the day-to-day political churn, I often feel like Sally: I’m not getting any of it.

1. Played to perfection by Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda (who was very much playing against type).

2 Comments

  1. Doug Johnson

    I am a bit more sympathetic to those who use the term woke, I guess. While I would never use terms or names that feel degrading to others, the rate of change in language and its degree sometimes annoys me. For example “un-housed” is now the PC term for homeless. Not exactly sure why, but an un-housed person to me seems less deserving of my concern than a homeless person. Do we really need to capitalize Black as an adjective? How many letters and symbols do we need to use after LGBQ? I believe there is an oversensitivity on the part of many groups who feel societally disadvantaged, perhaps. I will do my best to not offend and empathize with all minorities, but I too often feel I am walking on very thin ice when writing, unaware of what old terms may no longer be acceptable.

    • tim

      Language is hard, isn’t it? :) Like you, I also have trouble keeping up with all the cultural revisions we’re being told to use.

      But I think there’s a difference between “woke” and the other examples you cited. In those cases, people are making a good-faith effort to refine the way we talk about people. Woke was designed as an insult, the way a middle school bully might invent a bad sounding word to use against someone they don’t like.

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