You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons. — from Blazing Saddles, written by Andrew Bergman, Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Alan Uger, and Richard Pryor.
There are only two types of people who use and believe in the right-wing concept of “woke” — Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis (a.k.a. America’s most obnoxious bigot) and those who think DeSantis is right. None of them seem to agree on the actual meaning of the term, but they know that, generally, it means “anything that makes life uncomfortable for white American bigots.”
Of course, these fools also believe that Black Lives Matter and AntiFa are real organizations that issue orders to their troops, that communism and fascism are the same thing, and that Donald J. Trump is Jesus H. Christ resurrected.
My dear friend and frequent co-conspirator Martha Thomases spells it “W-O-L-K” and I truly like that. Problem is, if I were to adopt (well, steal) that stunt, I’m afraid some might misunderstand and think I’m talking about a dead television accordion player. But if these empty-headed windbags keep this up — and recent history shows us they enjoy pissing in the wind — I just might deploy Martha’s spelling.
I thought I’d back my thought-truck up into American history to see where it all came from. This is the type of true stuff that frightens the nitrogen out of bigots’ blood and cannot be taught in Commandant DeSantis’s racist, sexist, homophobic anti-Semantic, great white, Christian separatist public schools. I reference the great bullshit clearing house, Snopes.
It all starts with a man who pretty much fits the racists’ view of a Black person as an incarcerated song-and-dance person of color. Except they don’t have a clue what the term “person of color” means — other than it’s the antonym for white Christian nationalists. It starts with folk singer Lead Belly, who in 1938 was singing about the Scottsboro Boys: nine Black teenagers who were falsely accused of raping two white woman and were sentenced to death. Eventually they were freed, but remained pariahs to the white Christian nationalists who continued to rule their lives.
In discussing his song, Lead Belly offered some great advice. He said “Stay woke (and) keep your eyes open.”
Snopes points out that somewhat similar uses of “woke” were in use around the same time as Lead Belly’s song. Columnist Bijan C. Baynes used the term in 1930 by the Nation of Islam in Detroit. Those Americans said the Black community needed a spiritual awakening from its state of mental sleep. Well, that makes sense to me.
Perhaps the roots of that observation started seven years before that when civil rights pioneer Marcus Garvey wrote “Wake up Ethiopia! Wake up Africa! Let us work towards the one glorious end of a free, redeemed and mighty nation.”
That was then. This is now, and now Ron DeSantis and his pathetically bigoted white Christian separatist hordes have redefined — undefined, actually — the phrase. Well, you broke it, you own it.
What Lead Belly said was updated about a generation later. In his song 1965 Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan told his listeners “Don’t follow leaders; watch the parking meters.”
Perhaps if DeSantis wanted to freshen up his nauseating brain-dead rhetoric, he’ll change “woke” to “parking meters.” Or, maybe, he’ll just change his spelling to “W-O-L-K.” Why should he confuse the dangerously stupid right before an election?
(Writer’s addendum: This piece was written a bit earlier than usual as presently I should be in recovery-from-driving-back-from the Baltimore ComiCon mode, hopefully dodging a Bruce Springsteen concert and several opening-day football games. I plan on ignoring Earth most of Monday. Thanks to Martha Thomases for the spelling lesson; she, too is back from Baltimore but had the good sense to take Amtrak.)