Well before Lead Belly, young supporters of Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election formed a popular national movement called the Wide Awakes, campaigning for workers’ rights and the abolition of slavery. The movement’s half-a-million members were renowned for turning political rallies into festive occasions, parading at night by torchlight in colourful costumes, with music and fireworks. In a Bible-soaked age, few would have failed to recognise the allusion to the moral and spiritual wakefulness that is encapsulated in the parable of the wise virgins (Matthew 25:1-4).
Stay Woke: Our Fight for Freedom and Justice
The motto of this book, printed at the very beginning, is
Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
George Orwell, 1984
All of those trying to memory hole our real history and ourselves, especially in Florida and Oklahoma, know this well. The sorry tale told here is just what you would expect, except more so. This is what we need to be woke to: systemic racism going back to centuries of enslavement poisoning our society. It was not only in Klan-infested Jim Crow states. Official US government policy required redlining in housing, and demonized even the White allies of oppressed Blacks.
- Voting rights
- Generational Wealth
Misusing and co-opting a single word provides a foundation for casual cruelty and dismissiveness to groups of marginalized individuals in American society. That word is “woke “.
That isn’t the only weaponized word in our politics. I have written about many vicious Dog Whistles in US politics, such as the War on Druggies, Starve the Beast, Family Values, Law and Order, and Trickle-Down (on the pee-ons). Some of them take their place in the book. Now we have snowflakes pretending that learning any of this in school means making White children sad, or teaching them to hate all Whites, or various other vicious nonsense, with, of course, no concern for how Black or LGBTQ children or others feel. As the book points out,
Each chapter of this book gives a summary, with references, of particular insults and oppressions related to its topic, some in graphic detail, over a span of a century and a half or more. They also cover major advances, such as the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, which the enemies of wokeness have always exerted themselves to the utmost to obstruct or subvert.
What it does not do is to suggest what to do after absorbing these facts, and learning to stay woke to more. Not even organizing to vote, or to protest, or working to overcome our divisions. Well, many others are on those topics, as we have seen, and shall see again.
Even without that, this is all essential information for the activist and for any young person, whether in any of the targeted groups or not. Tell your school or public library to get a copy, and share it around. Or propose it to your local Banned Book Club, if you are in one of the offending states.
The Day the Buddha Woke Up
A very well-informed book on Buddhism/Awakening, leaving out the legendary miracles and prophecies to concentrate on the Bodhisattva’s koan of suffering. It boils down the early life of Siddhatta Gotama/Siddhartha Gautama, the Bodhisattva, into eight double-page images with short captions, and one of him as Shakyamuni Buddha, above. This is a wonderful example of Skill in Means for children. My wife shared the book with some Buddhist friends on a Zoom call, and one immediately ordered a copy for a grandchild.
There is also a sometimes banned children’s book on three Buddhist koans, called Zen Shorts. It has been adapted into a stage play and a video.
Oklahoma has followed Florida’s lead in adopting the viciously racist and climate denialist PragerU propaganda for its classrooms.
Lies, damned lies, and statistics on steroids.