ON BEING ANTI-WOKE

Bogeymen in Blue Suits and Red Ties

Malevolent men and women have always used fear to control us. Without the anxiety they try to induce in us, they are only paper tigers. A bogeyman is one who is evil or unpleasant and makes others afraid. A paper tiger is one who is outwardly powerful and possibly dangerous, but inwardly weak and ineffectual. Now that we have the terms of this game, let’s try to figure out why these creatures have glommed onto the term “woke.”

The timeworn African American slang term “woke” once referred to someone who was alert to racial prejudice and discrimination, but just as people grow up and change, so do words, phrases and slogans. Today, there are those who characterize a woke person as “hip” or “open-minded.” Therefore, it follows that an anti-woke person is CLOSE MINDED. This background, however, doesn’t answer the question about why so many politicians and mouth-breathing zealots have decided to force this term into the malicious column. If I am aware of cultural discrimination, while being open-minded enough to see beauty in every culture and tribe, why am I the enemy?

A “woke monster” is born when she or he puts down others, then rallies people around their criticism and attack. With the power of social media, it takes mere minutes for a stupid policy, statement or action motivated by self-profit to be consumed and believed. Every time Donald Trump, Jr. opens his mouth, all the pundit putdowns, comedic ridicule and digital abuse will not make him smarter. He will always be enormously close-minded and far from hip.

But why do the bogeymen label those who disagree with them as “woke?” It’s an incorrect term for a putdown. A person who is “alert,” “awake” or “hip” is trendy, cool and up on the latest things. Such a being doesn’t warrant a repugnant response from an elected official. One who attacks another person or group using the term “woke” means they are discouraging critical thought on any level. And guess what; that is exactly what they want to do.

I remember Richard Nixon used to call protesters against the Vietnam war, “outside agitators.” This was always offensive to me, a protester, because I was just as much a citizen as anyone else. Regardless of what I chanted while marching, I was still an American. Positioning us as OUTSIDERS, who the White House claimed were bused in for protesting, was an US and THEM tactic. We were protesting a corrupt and unjust war, and gee, we eventually discovered that was a hundred percent true.

What gets my goat are these self-serving hypocrites who run around the country talking about how they support the First and Second Amendment with no true understanding of what those articles even mean. The governor of Florida constantly claims grievance from an invisible foe of “woke culture,” but introduces and promotes laws to restrict school books, courses and curricula that he personally disagrees with, even when educators tell him he’s wrong. Once anyone tells Ron DeSantis he is wrong, they are moved onto his Enemies List and classified as “radical.” I honestly believe not teaching students about the true history of America is unamerican.

There have been some interesting characters throughout US history. Remember Senator Joe McCarthy? He wanted to round up all the commies in the country and put them in jail. Then there was Governor George Wallace, who genuinely believed in segregation and used racist tropes to gain power in the south. Now we now have about twenty people in Congress who are using lies, misinformation and conspiracy theories to raise money, defraud their constituents and disrupt the normal business of Congress. They need you to believe in woke scapegoats to move their narrow, dogmatic vision of America. They work tirelessly behind the scenes to devalue the vote of minorities and disenfranchised citizens. Why?

The divide makes Rupert Murdoch and Fox News billions of dollars, because they feed back misconceptions and lies to their eagerly misled audience. What a country! They box up a term like Critical Race Theory (CRT), demonize it, slap it and push it as evil by saying they want to protect the feelings of white students. Oh really, isn’t that fake wokeness? CRT is fundamentally an advanced college concept proposing that systemic racism and the way our laws are written place people of color at a disadvantage.

Ted Cruz, Ron DeSantis and Margorie Taylor Greene say they are aiming for clarity, but they’re just manipulators in search of attention and fame at any cost. If you took all the money out of Congress, all three would be working other jobs.

We liberal thinkers and writers are not the bad guys. Those are the men in blue suits with red ties who hate immigrants, colleges and criticism. They want to “take their country back.” But to where? 1950?

Derrick Bell

For every book that is banned, smart kids will be motivated to independently search the internet to get at truthful information. I once cracked, “I agree we shouldn’t teach CRT in public schools because most white kids are not smart enough to understand the concept.” But seriously, what is the big deal? Derrick Bell, whose views formed the foundation of CRT, wasn’t as angry as white politicians want you to believe.

When states ban teaching CRT in schools that receive taxpayer money, they are simply proving Mr. Bell was right. It’s white people making laws that disadvantage Black people. It’s socialized racism that gerrymanders the boundaries of what can be taught and closes the door on critical thinking. It’s a mystery why Ron DeSantis, who attended Yale and Harvard, believes he can erase history and whitewash the truth. His malevolent social engineering causes minority, gay and trans kids feel bad about themselves, and he must stop.

I am really not sure what “woke” means, but if it means I see right through these spineless bigots and racists, then I guess I am woke. Maybe it’s time for us all to woke up.

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FEAR OF FLYING

How to deal with dissent in the age of disinformation

Despite a fear of coming off as contrary or annoying, I must say that my default position is skepticism. You see, I’m inclined to question, and sometimes strongly doubt, accepted opinions.

Most of my friends were quite puzzled when I developed a fear of flying in the mid-1970s. My illogical dread began when I became obsessed with media coverage of several major air crashes at that time.

One of my friends, a true avionics enthusiast, took me by the hand and began a deprogramming process. We would meet for breakfast then go to the local airport observation deck to watch airplanes taking off and landing. Richard would point and mockingly say, “There, see that one? Didn’t crash!” He would do this routinely while interjecting his vast knowledge of aviation and how jet airplanes actually worked. The day finally came when he pointed out yet another plane that didn’t nosedive into the earth, and we both broke out in laughter.

I never forgot how much my friend helped me as this recovered-fear-of-flying human moved through life. Over the course of my more than fifty-year career, I flew millions of miles and was enrolled in numerous frequent flyer programs. My journey implanted a couple of points in my brain. One, never use a single incident or an anecdote to form an indelible conclusion, and two, without knowledge, facts and comprehension, human intellectual growth becomes stunted.

A racist who doesn’t know what racism means will never be able to cure their malady if and until they come to an understanding of what racism actually is. I remember learning the origin of the term “mulato” was a reference to a mule, the offspring of a horse and donkey. I then immediately deleted the word from my vocabulary, feeling embarrassed by my lack of realization.

Being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder in the mid-1990s, I was appalled when my personal physician told me, “You’re much too successful to have ADD.” He was wrong, and his lack of skill in identifying this simple ailment was astounding. I internally diagnosed my condition because all the data points lined up and confirmed the truth. With treatment, I have become more linear, more productive and decidedly happier.

Occasionally, I have faced someone who said ADD was a “made up thing” or an “excuse” for not working hard. I bristled, but with a calm voice and gentle smile began putting them to the test by asking if they knew the name of that spaced out sensation one encounters after a long airplane flight, “You know, that strange feeling when finding yourself in the grocery store but unable to remember why you are there?” They would chuckle and explain, “Oh, sure, that’s jet lag.”

I would thank them, then continue, “What about that peculiar feeling or having “been there before,” and not just the place but the circumstances of the situation?” Their answer came quickly, “Well, that’s déjà vu. Everyone experiences that.” And then I would say, “But it’s just a made-up thing, right?”

Once I nudged them into a defensive posture, I explained that ADD is a medical condition, primarily caused by a lack of sufficient dopamine in the frontal lobes. To be clear, jetlag and déjà vu have nothing to do with ADD, but prodding my listener to connect the dots of brain activity helped them understand their pronouncements were less than scientific or logical. Most experts believe the feeling you’ve been here before happens when there’s a bit of a miscommunication between two parts of the brain and that jetlag is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder caused by pushing the internal clock off schedule. Just observe what happens with people during a one-hour time change in spring and fall.

There’s a divide in our country based on a notion that no fact is secure. Sure, things change over time, but an openness that more data might require reversing or modifying one’s behavior is needed lest we sentence ourselves to a life of misery. I overheard a restaurant conversation where a man stated his reaction to a Covid-19 booster shot made him feel badly for a day. He said, “I will never get another shot. I don’t trust anything the CDC says.” Okay, that was one person, but I suspect he will vote for the political candidate who holds that same opinion, lacking any comprehension he would be more protected with the vaccine. If his doctor told him he has stage two cancer, would he walk out saying, “I don’t believe you,” and go home to await the third and fourth stages?

Science is not a one-night stand but rather a meaningful and ongoing relationship based on trust and truth. The more a loudmouth blowhard seasons an event with misconceptions, misinformation or disinformation, truth and trust become the victims. If a respected friend tells you that the CIA participated in the JFK assassination, it’s important that you examine and research the notion. When a person completely falls for a half-baked theory spouted by a TV talking head without any research, vetting or fact-checking, they are letting someone else program their brain. Is that a real thing? Surely.

One of the best pieces on the subject appeared in an article: The Social Dynamics of Conspiracy Rumors: From Satanic Panic to QAnon in Skeptical Inquirer magazine. The gist of that piece was use of the word “theory” after the word “conspiracy” should be eradicated forever. The word “theory” is simply wrong in that context. It’s not a theory, it’s a damn rumor. The term conspiracy rumor imparts less gravitas and more puffery.

By its very nature, a pre-conceived notion is an opinion formed without adequate evidence. We have all heard and used the phrase, “Well, that’s your opinion.” If using it ends a discussion and allows you to keep a friend, good for you, but if pushback makes the discussion escalate to an eruption, then the outcome was certainly not positive. It would be even worse to slam the door with, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” In July of 2021, when Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke those words to Senator Rand Paul, nothing was accomplished. Rand continued with his vitriolic, preconceived notions and millions of people refused the vaccine. Some of them died.

With mounting distrust of science, political manipulation of our educational systems and proclamations about everything being broken administered to millions by morally empty politicians, what can a reasoned thinker do to make the world better? You can either teach, talk to the crazy people, or leave the grid and turn off the TV.

I remember one of my kids being nervous about her first unaccompanied airplane flight. I told her, “You know, they don’t usually crash.” I’m sure my sarcasm didn’t help at all, and in hindsight I should have said, “They hardly ever crash.” Some suggest the odds of being in a plane crash are about one in eleven million. When the Powerball jackpot was over a billion dollars, it was said the odds of winning were one in 292.2 million. So, life imposes gambles, both bad and good.

Some celebrities claimed to have done research and decided not to get the Covid-19 shot. When probed about their information, they cited a whacko television talk show host or a website featuring lunatics-against-science. When asked if the 2020 election was rigged and the results invalid, a significant percentage of Americas said that is true, even though there are tons of data and documents to dispute that conspiracy rumor. How can we attain truth and trust again?

Most who fear flying will not make the effort to visit the airport for days on end to understand the vast number of verifiable data points proving planes rarely crash. Those who believe in the so-called deep state are ignoring that it is only real to the extent they embrace it. Once the poison of fixed position thinking takes ahold, the only path toward true liberation is the vaccine of truth. And you will probably need boosters along the way.

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