If You’re Sick of Woke Just Say So

One thing I’ve noticed since I began YSDA at the first of the year is how much quiet cheering I get, as in, “You’re saying exactly what I’m thinking. Keep saying it!” But then when I suggest that the person might want to submit a comment or even write a guest column, they demur. Most even confess that in their personal lives when they hear woke words and theories that they disagree with, they say nothing.

Well, that’s gotta end, folks.

Woke is killing the Democrats’ chances of staving off a now quasi-fascist movement that is called the Republican Party. The stakes are extremely high and so we have to become extremely practical. Woke is extremely theoretical — and I disagree with much of the theory.

Let me pause here and define my terms. I use woke as a catch basin for a host of bad ideas and awful language. The ideas are sometimes lumped into the phrase Critical Race Theory. I’m talking about the idea that the world can be easily divided into oppressors and the oppressed based on skin color and gender, the idea that we need to actively discriminate based on race now to make up for past discrimination based on race, the idea that things like free speech and the presumption of innocence and merit are just tools of the oppressors.

Let me be clear. I don’t find a single thing to admire in any of those ideas. It’s all just garbage.

And as to language, woke is full of an ever-growing list of cringe-worthy words and phrases: white privilege. the patriarchy, erasure, intersectionality, Latinx, letters and symbols that keep getting added to LGBT, statements of personal pronouns, calling mothers “birthing parents,” BIPOC and on and on and on and on.

The purveyors of this stuff tell us that language is important. They’re right. It is. And this language is absolutely politically toxic. You really want a more fair society? Stop talking like this.

Up until now, the loudest criticism of woke has come from the hard-right. But there are a growing number of organizations and websites that are liberal or center-left that also challenge woke. I collect them and I’ve listed what I have so far on the Resources page of this site.

And some prominent Democrats, most notably James Carville, but also David Shor and even Barack Obama, are speaking out about the dangers of woke. This week’s disastrous Democratic showings might give them a boost.

And that’s my point today. Those of us on the left side of the ledger need to SAY what we’re thinking. We’re for fairness. We’re against discrimination based on anything but merit. We see liberal values as the means to those ends, not impediments to them.

We’re also reasonable people. We believe that we should be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains fall out. For example:

On the one hand, we agree that we need to teach our nation’s history more completely. As a kid, I remember being taught that Lincoln freed the slaves, but I didn’t learn anything about what it was like to be a slave. But, on the other hand, we don’t think it’s either accurate or wise to change the very narrative and meaning of our country to be about slavery instead of freedom.

On the one hand, we agree that people should be free to express their sexuality in any way that involves consenting adults and which does not involve minors or wild, domestic or farm animals. On the other hand, we don’t think we’re required to change our use of the English language to accommodate them. If forced to state my pronouns, I’ll choose Larry, Curly and Moe.

On the one hand, we agree that race and gender play some role in one’s life prospects. But, on the other hand, we don’t think these things explain 100% of everything. There has to be some room for personal responsibility and initiative in this conversation.

On the one hand, we believe in a meritocracy, where people are rewarded based on their own inherent talents and hard work. But, on the other hand, we would be blind if we were to deny that we are developing a sort of inherited meritocracy, where wealthy and well-educated parents are able to clear the way for their kids. To keep true meritocracy alive we have to find ways to make the playing field at least somewhat more even.

My pronouns: Curly, Moe and Larry..

I think this lines up with where most Americans are at on these things. A party that ran on these ideas would do pretty well. A party that runs on white privilege will lose.

To finish where I began, I am struck at how many people who read this blog tell me in private how much they like this stuff and then tell me how they would never say these very things in their own social circles, much less in the broader public realm.

That’s gotta end. If the liberal silent majority remains silent they’ll just continue to watch their party lose and freedom fade.

Welcome to the 261st day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!

Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

5 thoughts on “If You’re Sick of Woke Just Say So

  1. I agree with your sentiments. But it’s remarkably difficult to break away from the pack…which is really a commentary on how pervasive those influences have become. To question current liberal orthodoxy risks being labeled a heretic…or worse, a Republican. 😉

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  2. To start, I disagree with paragraph 4. I don’t agree that those un-nuanced ideas are nearly as widespread as the media is pushing us to believe. There are elements of them that have a home within a much more complex and nuanced philosophy, so in a sense I agree that if anyone is bluntly bandying phrases like that about they should speak/write in longer form with more complete context.

    Yes, politically speaking it probably would be smart for Democrats to keep some distance from these ideas. I interpret Biden’s win as an example of that.

    This is where I wish we had more political parties to choose from….

    It’s advantageous to both sides to have the other characterized by their extremes, and that’s a tactic that is and always has been employed through the media. They need to scare those few uncommitted voters in the middle that the other side is too extreme.

    As a counter-tactic I think it’s smarter for Democratic party leadership and public influencers like this blog to not admonish their left wing but rather bring as little attention to it as possible. Show voters that while those ideas are welcome in the universe of ideas, the party itself moderates, compromises, and finds common ground one step at a time. Why battle with anyone you need to show up and vote? There are smarter ways to brand the party than that. Setting the party against itself is a trap – one that too many are falling into. Just as the left wing is smarter to be kind to moderates, moderates are smarter to be kind to the left wing.

    There are times to rebuke those in one’s own party; when an extremist takes a leadership position I understand not being able to sit back and go along. But the situation in the Democratic Party is nothing like that in the Republican. Progressives are not in leadership positions, no matter how often Fox News talks about AOC 🙂

    So sure moderates, assert your leadership of the party, please do. But be careful bashing the left wing while you do it. Right wing and corporate media are already doing enough of that. A simple “I don’t agree, here’s what I believe…”, and when media tries to bait into criticism don’t take it. The whole point of incessant discussion on “woke” in the media is to sour moderates on the Democrats and get the focus off the Republican extremists.

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  3. Testament to how the Woke cancel discussion, debate, and dissent. During my pyrrhic run for school board two years ago, former alders and retired city department heads would approach saying they supported me but (nervously looking around the room) they dare not take one of my yard signs. “My neighbors might not understand.”

    Which is to say, looking for a few good men and women to run for school board next Spring. Must declare by early January. Will take the merely immunized if not fully vaccinated.

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    1. Well, David, let me be loud and proud. I voted for you. Not because I agree with you about everything, but because I thought we needed a contrary voice on the school board. And, you’ve gotta admit, when it comes to being contrary, you most certainly are that.

      Liked by 1 person

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