What Has This To Do With Being Woke?

THERE IS A LOT OF TALK about ‘wokeness’ these days. Especially from those who were once called conservatives. And I’ve got a word or two I’d like to say about it. But first…

I came upon the story today. A nice woman who runs a wildlife rehab facility which, like most, is completely full and overwhelmed. But she quickly volunteered to take in 4 baby raccoons. They had been in a tree hole den for 3 days with their dead mother, who had climbed the tree with her last ounce of strength before expiring. Killed by a farmer, with rat poison. A terrible, slow, agonizing death. Two of the babies subsequently died, also poisoned, and the last two are very quiet. Scared. Traumatized. Not acting like baby raccoons. She hopes she can help them survive and recover. Like all the wildlife rehabbers I know, this person is a hero. An extraordinarily empathetic, kind, hard-working hero.

What has this to do with being ‘woke’? Everything. Woke is simply shorthand. Street slang for awake. Awakened. Aware. And empathetic. Next time you hear someone disparage the term, or those who embrace it, please remember that. It sure doesn’t sound offensive to me. Not something that should be banned from an entire state, like Florida.

And the opposite of woke, one would imagine, would be… asleep. Unawakened. Unaware. But no. In Websters Dictionary terms perhaps, but in actuality, in practical terms, the opposite of woke is… cruel. Sometimes thoughtlessly or unintentionally, but more often intentionally cruel. Watch Ron Desantis’ face and listen to his voice when he disparages or attacks the concept, the people—the vulnerable, marginalized people. It is entirely intentional. It is an application of cruelty that says plainly, you don’t count. You don’t deserve. Your history doesn’t matter. It isn’t real. You aren’t real. Your suffering or disenfranchisement isn’t real. You don’t get to be ‘a part of,’ you are separate and ‘less than.’ Your existence is an affront. To ‘us.’ To all the good, normal, people of the right religion, the right skin color, the right sexual or gender identity, the right political party. And because you are ‘woke,’ which is now an epithet, we can feel good and righteous about it all, without a single pang of conscience.

That is the actual opposite of ‘woke,’ my friends. And it is nothing like being ‘asleep.’ The farmer in the news story was certainly not woke. Not empathetic in the least. But he was not asleep, either. He knew precisely what he was doing, what would happen, the agony that would be inflicted, and the time of year that a mother animal would have babies. He acted, yes, with a lack of awakened empathy, but more to the point, with intentional disregard and cruelty. And the rehabber who took the babies in, who extended compassion and kindness, was in the fullest sense ‘awake.’

I don’t know, but if dim memory serves, there might even be a story, perhaps a passage or two, in the Bible—the right wing’s supposed proprietary good book—about the very concept. The concept of empathy. Caring for the naked, the poor, the sick, the hungry, the different, the outcast, the other. For exactly those we all are—or will be—at one time or another. Sooner or later. And for those of ‘the right’ who do love animals—their cats and dogs and pets and even wild things, but have more trouble with humans… maybe you could try harder. Maybe we all could. Open our eyes a little wider. Be a little more awake. If not woke.

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