“Woke” is Nothing New

You may have heard or read about something or someone being “woke.” That particular word is often a pejorative term used for the political left and is often associated with the culture wars. For instance, if someone desires a new set of pronouns, abiding by such is considered “woke.” It is also a tool for those on the political right to shrug off claims of prejudice by the left, as if to say that is “woke politics.”

While we see and read about the political left being woke, let us not forget both sides of the political spectrum have a history of woke behavior. Take Disney’s new film Turning Red as an example. Personally, I have a Disney Plus account and use it often because I love the X-Men animated series from the 1990s and all of the Star Wars content, but I never heard of Turning Red until my social media friends shared a post condemning the film. The post, which comes from a public account, has nearly 900 comments and over 40,000 shares but the content is reminiscent of a time when people railed against Elvis’ dance moves, burned Beatles records, and argued pro wrestling is too violent, etc. This sense of woke behavior argues certain aspects of society go against its traditional grains, as if something sacred was violated right before their eyes, and it should be demolished into oblivion.

People in Birmingham, Alabama, burning records of The Beatles in July 1966.

The criticisms of a coming of age film like Turning Red entice trivial, snarky responses. For me, I was unaware about what to be upset. Should I have been angry about the boy band, Canada, or both? I am still unsure which one deserves my cantankerous fervor. At any rate, the woke culture in extreme form — from both political spectrums — results in nothing positive. We often see and hear the frustrations of such about the left, but we are on the cusp of experiencing conservative wokism resulting in fascist-like actions.

Just for a quick refresher, fascism is an extreme conservative ideology that contains several characteristics. The opposition to Marxism, political and cultural liberalism, egalitarianism, but advocate social hierarchies while abiding to family and religious values are just a few distinctive aspects of the fascism seen in post-World War I Europe.

The height of the fascist movement came under Nazi Germany in the 1930s. During this tumultuous time, thousands of books were banned and burned in 1933. Authors like Ernest Hemingway, Helen Keller, Karl Marx, Jack London, Thomas Mann, Franz Werfel, and Theodore Dreiser had their works collected and burned by Nazis while being blacklisted from publication and distribution because they were deemed “un-German,” politically suspect, and/or “degenerate.”

Nazi book burning in May 1933 (photo credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Banning books is a key example of conservative woke politics. In Texas, this became an issue when former State Representative Matt Krause wanted an inventory of books in school libraries. According to the Texas Tribune, Krause launched an investigation “into Texas school districts over the type of books they have, particularly if they pertain to race or sexuality or “make students feel discomfort.” Krause also inquired from districts “the number of copies they have of each book, on what part of campus those books are located and how much money schools spent on the books, as well as information on any other book that violates House Bill 3979, the so-called ‘critical race theory law’ designed to limit how race-related subjects are taught in public schools.”

Texas State Representative Jared Patterson — Republican, District 106 (Twitter Profile Picture)

The former State Rep.’s move snowballed into a crusade concerning what books should be in school libraries. This cause inspired State Rep. Jared Patterson to go after the graphic novel “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” labeling it pornography due to a few detailed illustrations depicting oral sex. This begs the question “what is pornography?” and answering that has turned into a quest for the Holy Grail. Patterson was asked this question by the Houston Chronicle earlier this month and he failed to, one, directly answer the question and, two, give a working definition.

The standard set by the Supreme Court in the Ginsberg case of 1968 and then later the Miller standard on obscenities are truly our guiding light. If the Texas Legislature wishes to label certain books in school libraries “obscene,” that is its power to do so but where will it end? Will National Geographic still be accessible? Will books like V for Vendetta, Fahrenheit 451, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Confessions of Nat Turner, among others be considered obscene and banned? Will a teacher be able to access the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News, Lubbock AJ, Amarillo GN? Maybe State Rep. Patterson and others should answer those questions.

Book on the list for Texas State Representative Matt Krause.

The world survived conservative wokism but we are currently at a watershed moment of enduring another, especially in Texas. I am old enough to remember a conservative movement that argued “if someone does not like something, do not get it.” I am unsure if those types of conservatives still exist.



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Drew Landry

Drew Landry


Government Prof; Baseball fan; Political junkie; @drewllandry on Twitter