If you have become enamored with using the word “woke” to describe what’s happening in politics, it’s time to, well, wake up. You’re being used by language.
“Wokeness” is nothing more than a B.S. linguistic frame to stir and steer your thoughts in ways that are a modern-day conservative equivalent of those hippies who looked at the world through rose-colored glasses.
MAGA-enhanced Republicans on language steroids are trying to get you to believe that regular Americans who are kind, inclusive, thoughtful and respect diversity and freedom are little more than pawns in a cabal to take away your guns, gender and religion. Hogwash.
What these zealots really want you to do is step back in time to an America filled with more racism and less opportunity. They want a new-day version of plantation economics and a society built on fundamentalism, fear and a convenient rewrite of history that ignores the American dream for all, regardless of skin color or economic status. When it comes down to brass tacks, they want our shining experiment with democracy and the marketplace for ideas and capitalism to fail, only to be replaced by an autocratic tyranny.
Linguist George Lakoff wrote a popular 2004 political manifesto for progressives on how to frame issues politically. The book, Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, instantly highlights the power of words — once you’re told to not think of an elephant, you can’t get the image of an elephant out of your head.
Now almost 20 years later, conservatives have hoisted progressives on Lakoff’s linguistic petard with all of this “wokeness” nonsense — insisting that Americans reinterpret how they think of culture in a cynical and fully transparent ploy to brush past reality.
What’s sad — and kind of funny — is that conservatives use this “woke” language without really being able to explain it. Fox News talk show host Dana Perino couldn’t give a clear definition recently, eventually likening it to a “feeling” like a Supreme Court justice’s description of obscenity — “I know it when I see it.”
Right-wing author Bethany Mandel recently froze like a deer in headlights when asked to define “wokeness” — the topic of a book she wrote. Later, she claimed she had a panic attack during the interview, but a viral video clip led comic book writer Dan Slott to joke, “The far right is starting to use ‘woke’ in the all-purpose way that Smurfs say ‘smurf.’”
Republican presidential candidates, desperately trying to stir audiences, throw about wokeism like beads at Mardi Gras to attack progressives and political correctness. Former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, for example, recently pandered, “Wokeness is a virus more dangerous than any pandemic, hands down.” Really? The term comes up frequently in speeches by former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. It’s like they have a new word toy and can’t keep from playing with it.
Most Americans see through the nonsense. According to a recent USA Today/Ipsos poll, 56% of people surveyed — including a third of Republicans — said wokeness meant “to be informed, educated on and aware of social injustices.” They didn’t buy the conservative wordsmithing link to political correctness.
“Most Americans understand that to be woke is to be tuned in to injustices around us,” Ipsos pollster Cliff Young said. “But for a key segment of Republicans who make up the Trump-DeSantis base, ‘woke’ is a clear trigger for the worst of the politically correct, emerging multicultural majority.”
Don’t get fooled that “wokeism” is a real thing. It’s something they want you to believe.
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