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If the opposite of woke is ignorantly unaware or virtually unconscious, I think I'll stay a-woke.

One year, early in my teaching career, the students—like those in most schools—were called upon to elect a class president. In the week leading up to the voting, there was a lot of talk about electing a certain student because (and I remember the quote) it would be a hoot. I knew the person—not a bad kid in any way—but not the kind of leader to whom one would entrust any responsibility.

It all worked out when the person who would make things a hoot actually won—but the other class officers got the job done, and nobody was the worse for wear.

I often wonder if that same mentality—electing someone whose only qualification is hoot-potential—motivates voters to elect unqualified candidates: Gosar, Jordan, Greene, Boeberts, etc. As with that high school election, the others who possess the will to do the work will get things done. Even so, this is more worrisome than the possibility of a messy prom invitation or a person left out of the class will, for this particular gaggle of elected officials has taken the Speaker of the House hostage and has turned him into a hapless marionette while they tug at the strings according to their whims...all this as a war is raging in Europe and threatening in the Pacific. While Boeberts laments "wonton" killings, "gazpacho" police, and "peach tree" dishes—as ignoramuses will—the world is hurtling toward disaster

And when we oppose the idiocy of people like her, when we pay attention to events that threaten us and discourage us and sadden us, we are labeled woke, as if it were some repellent epithet.

Well, I like that label.

•I like being woke to the fact that despots like Ron DeSantis have a plan to destroy the American education system policy by policy, from elementary school right through college.

•I like being woke to the fact that the group involved in the January 6 insurrection comprised nothing more than a hodgepodge of misinformed conspiracy nuts and violent thugs. No tourists.

•I like being woke to the fact that we need better immigration laws and more immigrants. One does not preclude the other, and the future of our economy depends on both.

•I like being woke to the fact that the oil companies, the pharmaceutical giants, the railroads, and the airlines will always look out for themselves first. And second. Maybe third. Probably only. And so the party of big business will never be on my side if it means enforcing rules that might reign them in—no matter the methane, the opioids, the train wrecks, the lost luggage.

•I like being woke to the fact that Donald Trump should be in jail for fomenting attacks on election volunteers, misusing campaign funds, refusing to return classified documents, attempting to extort favors from a foreign leader, and endangering the lives of millions of Americans by first denying the pandemic and then suggesting foolish—if not lethal—treatments for it.

Climate change? Four-hundred years of American bigotry and racial abuse? Renewed raging anti-Semitism? Depression in teenagers and young adults? LGBTQ rights? Income inequality? Prohibitive health care costs? A Supreme Court run amok? Misogyny? Right-wing terrorism? Future pandemics? Legislation to stifle voting?

Woke, on all counts. (My apologies to the unconscious for disturbing them with that list.)

I recently read that liberals aren't as happy as conservatives. I can understand that. If we really are aware of the difficult issues we face—aware enough to worry about them and address them seriously—a modicum of gravity is required. We don't have to be glum or morose, but we do have to be conscious. Marjorie Taylor-Greene may indeed be a hoot, but if we want to progress in the areas where it's needed, she and her ilk will have to be awakened.


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