Gary Horton | Be Awake, Not Woke

Gary Horton
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Oh, I tire of culture wars. Two sides, forever manipulating their base through exaggeration of emotional cultural issues, rather than fixing real problems and in truth, making America great. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has emerged as the latest culture war firebrand. He’s emerged as the “anti-woke” poster boy. DeSantis says, “Florida is where woke goes to die.” He says, “Why don’t we just do and keep the things that matter? Why is it that someone always tries to jam their agenda down our throats?” 

At first glance, DeSantis seems to be making sense. “Let’s just do the things that matter.” That’s what we all want, right? If only this was more than culture war speak and little more than stirring reactive pots. It’s DeSantis who is hell-bent on shoving his agenda down our throats. Rather than doing things that matter, DeSantis has instead turned “anti-woke” into his presidential platform. It’s no surprise; politicians use emotional manipulation for political gain at every chance. 

Preaching “anti-woke” is little more than stirring passions against “the other” for political gain. It’s creating animosity and worry about those different than you. “Woke folk” are turned into bad guys; odd people of all sorts who are different than what’s perceived as “mainstream” – which, in this case, means conservative white folk. 

I’m progressive and personally, I don’t like the “woke” word, as it’s become little more than a conservative slur against anyone different, especially anyone different looking to change things to be more just and more inclusive. Like “liberal,” “woke” has been abused and bastardized to become an insult, a short circuit around actually thinking and engaging folks different than you. 

“Woke” used to be a word of meaning and substance. A term that was once useful, truthful and fair for describing others’ views and intentions. 

“Woke” was originally used in the racial justice movements of the 1900s. “Woke” meant someone who is informed, educated and conscious of social injustice and racial inequality, Merriam-Webster Dictionary states. “Woke” meant to be aware and engaged. 

Flipping that script, today Ron DeSantis has become the anti-woke flag bearer, seeking to stop the clock or even turn back time. Like Donald Trump, he harks back to a time when America was more “the way it used to be.” DeSantis has reduced and eliminated access to race studies in Florida. He’s said “no” to history. “No” to learning. “No” to being aware of the other. He’s even gone to war against Disney due to their gender-acceptance policies. DeSantis is the “Don’t say gay” guy, all under his “anti-woke” crusade. 

In a DeSantis world, “anti-woke” means “anti-access” to any education, thought and action that disturbs one’s present comfort with the way things are. Shut it out, shut it down, and don’t even think about it. Literally, don’t learn or think about it. 

So, “woke” as a word has become a hate dog-whistle. And as such, it’s time to put what was once a purposeful word away in favor of something not-yet-bent into a hate-speech rallying call. 

Instead of “woke,” let’s say, “awake.” Instead of woke, let’s say, “aware.” Let’s say, “thoughtful, inquisitive and introspective.” Instead of “woke,” let’s say, “accepting.” 

A great America isn’t a divided America. Rather, it’s inclusive of all the diversity that makes America so unique and vibrant. When we slur groups with abused labels, we effectively dehumanize them and reduce their worth. This is a bad mistake for all sides. 

So, let’s put the woke word away. I don’t want to be woke. 

However, I do want to be aware. I do want to be awake. I do want to be thoughtful and enlightened. I’m not afraid to learn from history to push America forward, having learned from its past. 

When you hear “woke,” substitute, “awake and aware.” 

Can you imagine DeSantis heckling folks for being awake, aware, or enlightened? That’s what he and others have done with the “woke” word and that’s why it’s time to toss “woke” away. 

Let’s be aware, informed, and willing to learn and change when appropriate and just. The opposite is to truly stick our heads in the sand while the world spins forward around us. 

And if we’re not awake and aware, we might as well be blind and asleep. 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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