My youngest brother is well over a decade younger than I am, and had for years, an interesting theory about music. Since I am an early boomer, born in 1949, his thinking was that any musician that I eventually came to like, was now passe', and it was time for him to move on to another new band.
For years I argued that musicians have to pay the rent and the drug dealer, and making money isn't a sin. But now hearing my musical heroes from Motown, Liverpool, and Laurel Canyon played on the sound system at Walmart, I wonder if he wasn't on to something.
I say that because of three little words that have become the common currency of political debate, and as such, are now as relevant as double-knit slacks. The words are "woke" and "cancel culture." And if I can in any way hasten their demise, the good Lord can take me as my work here will be done.
When the former President (and it took all my grit to type that), Donald Trump can call for a boycott of a cable service for dropping the One America News Network, which makes Fox look like they are run by Sean Penn, and still complain about cancel culture, the phrase has lost any meaning.
And when I hear Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana (equally hard to type) use the word "woke" in that cornpone, Huckleberry Hound-accent the Vanderbilt grad uses to appeal to the folks in Evangeline Parish, I have to fight the urge to fling food at the screen.
So, like my brother, I believe that since the words have now become the common currency of the soiled doves we jocularly call Congress, then it's time that such were retired. And don't take this as the ramblings of a glow-in-the-dark Irish guy, I know their origins and original meanings. It's just that they have now become weapons to be used against Democrats, and bless their hearts, they can't seem to see that the words have become a damaging distraction.
"Woke," is a shorthand way of saying, particularly in the African-American community, stay awake to racism. Don't get complacent.
Cancel Culture is that tendency we have to become as touchy as a small-town mayor to any hint of criticism and to lash out and punish the offender publically. Except now it's used as a descriptive for "snowflake" liberals who bristle at anything that falls outside a belief system as exclusive as the River Oaks Country Club, and then publically shame the offender.
Here's the deal though, as our current chief executive might say, we've done that forever on the left and the right.
Examples? How about "love it or leave it?" Or "never trust anyone over 30?" I've given my age already so you know the last one is no longer operative as I'm in my extremely late 40's.
And now, they are being applied to any and everything. If anyone is publically criticized, they are being “canceled.” Anything that you find even slightly liberal is of course, “woke.” Both, by the way, are now in the Oxford English Dictionary, which is enough for me to want to toss a grenade into their printing press.
And here's an example of both phrases being used for political purposes, and the words being used as toxic pejoratives.
Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, who I swear looks like every used car salesman whoever screwed me on that "perfect little creampuff with low miles," has proposed a slate of bills he calls his "stop-woke" agenda. The goal is to keep schools in his sadly benighted state from teaching what we old-timers used to call history.
We see the echoes here in Texas. And again, fighting the rising tide of "woke" is the operative rationale for folks who want to teach that Washington chopped down a cherry tree rather than realities about the Texas Revolution, the Civil War, Jim Crow or the Holocaust. In this area, we can add another phrase that has become a catch-all for actually teaching history...Critical Race Theory. Forget that the actual curriculum is well researched, and taught only in senior-level college or law schools. It concerns the areas of American life where racism was baked into the economy and society from the get-go and continues to penalize black folks when it comes to commerce, housing, and other areas the rest of us take for granted.
But, mention CRT in a speech and you'll have to pause for the applause from folks who have no idea what it actually is. Good example; when the greatest generation came home from war, Congress rewarded them with the GI Bill of Rights. My dad became an engineer thanks to it. But it didn't apply to black troops, through a number of circuitous methods. Now, should that be mentioned in class, along with Japanese internment, when we talk about WW2?
Apparently not. The supreme irony of the bills passed here in Texas and elsewhere is that they seek to prevent any kid of any race from feeling bad about the past. Pondering this, it sounds kind of snowflakey to me. Should history class be a "safe space?" Let's be honest, for many, all of history is one, gigantic microaggression.
When I was in Berlin covering the reunification of the two Germanys in the early '90s, I was running to make a press conference, dashed up the stairs from the subway and almost ran into an iron sign on a pole at the entrance to the subway stop. On it was a simple list of the concentration camps where the satanic orders were carried out. Auschwitz, Sobibor, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau and the rest. When I got to the press conference, I asked a German colleague what the sign was all about. His simple reply was, "So we don't forget."
He didn't seem to be an emotional wreck with the knowledge of what his forebears did, just aware. That's what teaching history should do. But it seems we will continue with the image of that great draft dodger, John Wayne, swinging Old Betsy at the invading Mexicans at the Alamo. Just as we have learned all the dimensions of historic figures like Custer, Patton, JFK, Lee and Washington, should we be afraid of the truth about other areas of our past, or do we simply want to perpetuate the cliches and legends? In the great John Ford film "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," a reporter says, "When the facts and the legend collide, print the legend." Good line for a movie, but bad for education.
And that brings us back to "woke" and "cancel culture." Is it woke to cancel the holy trinity of Texas, Travis, Crockett, and Bowie? And what about a personal hero of mine, Sam Houston, who actually opposed secession? Well, frankly, it isn't "woke" or "canceling" if it's the truth. And that's the problem here. And as usual, we have placed our most underpaid and underappreciated group of government employees smack in the middle...teachers. With Patrick and the rest of the pack looking over their shoulders like Kilroy, wanting to tape class lectures or have kids rat them out if they step over the line, who the hell would want this job? Sadly, fewer and fewer are willing to sign up, given that many will qualify for food stamps.
And Democrats? As I said before, bless their hearts. They can't seem to see how they are made into cartoon characters, well, except for Speedy Gonzales (ethnic cliché’)...or Pepe LePew (sexual addiction)...or Elmer Fudd (speech impediment). Okay, bad metaphor. But they just can't help themselves. Not to go all Bill Maher here, but the folks on the left have become as sensitive to offense as a small-town deputy running a speed trap. They seem to have lost the ability to suck it up and move forward. If they stop every ten feet to resolve some perceived offense, they'll never get there, wherever there is.
They seem oblivious to how the so-called Green New Deal is being portrayed, and helpless to fight it. James Carville, who is indeed the ghost of Democratic Christmases Past, says the party... "has been pulled so far left that even non-crazy people think we're crazy."
We in the press are somewhat to blame. How else would there be so much attention paid to Greene, Bohbert, Gaetz or the Squad? These are the comedy relief of government, the sideshow freaks of democracy. And yet we breathlessly report their every ungrammatical utterance as though it matters.
Well, OK. Marjorie Taylor Greene calling the Gestapo the Gazpacho is too delicious to ignore. But what about the LuftWaffle?
But the latest tempest in a C-cup (hat tip to Oscar Levant) is a former comic, actor and Ultimate Fighting Championship commentator, Joe Rogan. He has an enviably popular podcast that seems to consist of a couple of guys pontificating over a glass of hooch about the International Bank, or something. It's a diversion, a mindless word salad. The equivalent of quizzing the guy at the end of the bar about investments. People have their Hanes in a wad because he let people like quarterback Aaron Rodgers spout nonsense about Ivermectin. Let me point out though, that Rodgers gets hit in the head a lot in his line of work, so keep that in perspective. But in fact, Rogan said something yesterday I actually agree with. "Anyone who takes medical advice from me is not very smart." Self-awareness is the beginning of wisdom, grasshopper. The solution is simple. Ignore him like I've ignored every single episode of Sex and the City.
So, my dearest wish is to retire 'Woke' and 'Cancel Culture,' ignore the mouth-breathers in Congress, hold both sides accountable for their nonsense and give the voters and their kids honest information about the country we love, warts and all.
Too much to ask? Yeah, probably.