Woke vs. Broke

If the Republican Party is any indication of the state of things within the conservative movement, there are some real problems for folks on the other side of the cultural aisle. The most cohesive position that folks on the “right” seem to be able to take is in opposition to what they regularly refer to as “woke” culture (see Ron DeSantis[1]).  This involves making it illegal to refer to someone as “Latin-x”[2], attacking drag queens as “groomers”[3] and exporting asylum seekers to other states[4].  Oh, and let’s not forget the biggest bogeyman of them all… “CRT” (Critical Race Theory[5]) that seems to find itself at the center of almost as many legislative agendas as anti-transgender bills and policies[6].

Conservative Republicans want a big tent as long as they can control and anticipate who is coming inside…and what they do once they are there.

A lot of this anti-woke rhetoric came to full flower during the worst of the resistance to the emergent Black Lives Matter movement and echoes the ignorant media point-scoring narratives spewed by the former president and his biggest supporters.  But therein lies the rub.  With so much to complain about, there is precious little that we actually know of what conservatives want.  They don’t want abortion…but who does? Progressives want the right to determine the decision to have one without government intervention (i.e. small government…but not so small it fits in a uterus). They don’t want immigration of rapists and drug smugglers…but who does?  Progressives want a clear and legal path for migrants and asylum seekers to have a way to participate in our country without adding to their trauma (i.e. fair and humane government based on reason and facts).  They don’t want heterosexual cisgender identity to be compromised…but who does?  Progressives just want a place for those who sit outside of that definition to have a way to be recognized as fully human (i.e. actually living into the 14th Amendment…you know the big tent).  In truth, the Progressive agenda and what progressive Democrats have clearly stated they want to see in our world sounds an awful lot like the lost goals and ambitions of conservatives of a bygone era.

This is the problem.  Conservative Republicans want a big tent as long as they can control and anticipate who is coming inside…and what they do once they are there.  The other problem is that the Republican party, as the political advertising arm of conservatism, has been operating inside its tent entirely without a platform since 2020[7].  Its last platform, adopted in 2016 was less of a battle cry and more of a death wail[8].  Despite starting with its declaration about “American exceptionalism”, it paints a picture of America as a failed experiment, due in part to the work of the (so far) only black president.  There are unmistakable shades of D.W. Griffith’s “A Birth of a Nation” (1915) in the fear it works hard to conjure up.  Still, it is the last time that politically active conservatives have come together to plainly state what their agenda is.  In the absence of a platform, this means that anyone who is willing to generate a cult of negative messaging against anything perceived as progressive or inclusive or “woke” becomes a de facto conservative hero.

Enter Rep.(?) George Santos and Rep. Ryan Zinke.  George Santos (a.k.a. Anthony Devolder…and probably any number of names) is a serial liar and truly has no place being anywhere near the governance of a sandbox, let alone the United States.  He is a myth of his own making yet the most vocally conservative of conservatives in the House (among them Matt Gaetz[9]) have embraced him with open arms making his failings out to be harmless standard practice.  These aren’t lies, they are “embellishments”; everyone does it…most of all Democrats!  Next up, Ryan Zinke, recently delivered a speech in the House of Representatives (now that it is actually open for business) that speaks of the conspiracy theory of the “deep state” as proven fact.[10]  So, apparently, without a platform or an agenda or any clear sense of what one is for one can now just make it up, out of thin air and fearmongering if you are in charge…and want to stay there.

Note: this is at least part of the mentality that justified slavery…

…and what created the myth about women being incapable of voting.

…and intentionally exterminated swaths of native people.

…and developed eugenics (at Harvard)

…and well, the Holocaust.

These kind of lies for political gain only have traction because they are pasted on a blank backdrop.  But any student of how race and empire has worked in global colonial histories, particularly the United States, knows that this is also the primary tool of white Christian hegemony as a tool of conquest.  If the most powerful force in the room is entirely invisible, it is nearly impossible to point a finger at it and accuse it of any harm.  Racism doesn’t exist…because we don’t see race; race isn’t real. I’m not racist!…but you still can’t come inside the tent.

I actually have nothing against actual “conservative” values.  What I have something against is the fabrication of a nouveau conservatism built in a vacuum of lies and political myths.  Admittedly, the position I come from as a proud progressive religious leader could be labeled as decidedly “woke”.  But I think it is much worse and proving to be significantly more dangerous that the current conservative movement is not just vacant of morals and values or any kind of agenda, but that it is ethically bankrupt and unrecognizably, and maybe irreparably damaged.

In a word, it is “broke”.

[1] The Associated Press, “Judge Blocks Fla. ‘anti-Woke’ Law as Violating First Amendment,” accessed January 13, 2023, https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/post/3324/judge-blocks-fla-anti-woke-law-as-violating-first-amendment.

[2] Ayana Archie, “Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders Is Banning ‘Latinx’ from State Documents,” NPR, January 13, 2023, sec. Politics, https://www.npr.org/2023/01/13/1148966968/sarah-huckabee-sanders-arkansas-latinx.

[3] “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Administration Targets Holiday Drag Shows,” December 29, 2022, https://www.advocate.com/news/2022/12/29/florida-gov-ron-desantiss-administration-targets-holiday-drag-shows.

[4] Giulia Heyward, “Busloads of Migrants Dropped off near Kamala Harris’s Home on Christmas Eve,” NPR, December 25, 2022, sec. National, https://www.npr.org/2022/12/25/1145481615/busloads-of-migrants-dropped-off-at-kamala-harriss-home-on-christmas-eve.

[5] “Critical Race Theory FAQ,” Legal Defense Fund (blog), accessed January 13, 2023, https://www.naacpldf.org/critical-race-theory-faq/.

[6] Jayne Swift, “Gendered Racial Projects: Anti-Trans, Anti-CRT, and Anti-Abortion Legislation,” Gender Policy Report (blog), July 14, 2022, https://genderpolicyreport.umn.edu/gendered-racial-projects-anti-trans-anti-crt-and-anti-abortion-legislation/.

[7] “Resolution Regarding the Republican Party Platform | The American Presidency Project,” accessed January 13, 2023, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/resolution-regarding-the-republican-party-platform.

[8] “2016 Republican Party Platform | The American Presidency Project,” accessed January 13, 2023, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/2016-republican-party-platform.

[9] “Matt Gaetz Goes To Bat For Team George Santos And His Game Of Lies | HuffPost Latest News,” accessed January 13, 2023, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/matt-gaetz-defends-george-santos_n_63c0c0efe4b0ae9de1c669d5.

[10] “Ryan Zinke Rants That ‘Deep State’ Wants To ‘Wipe Out The American Cowboy’ | HuffPost Latest News,” accessed January 13, 2023, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/ryan-zinke-deep-state-cowboys_n_63bea99be4b0cbfd55ee5f4b.

Comeback

Several years ago I basically dropped off of social media.  I needed to do this for my sanity.  I had entered into parish ministry and although I’ve long been an advocate of ministers engaging in social media, I found that the algorithms that allow social media to be such a boon for some were becoming deeply toxic for me.  For whatever reason, the algorithms picked up on the extraordinary amount of loss of friends and colleagues in my life and it decided that I wanted to see and hear nothing but news and information about death and dying.  Every time I opened a different app, the news at the top of the feed was about death; advertisements were about therapy and loss, it became overwhelming.

So I left.

Well, I’m going to make something of a comeback for 2023.  I realize now that part of what made it so hard was the technology but more importantly part of the challenge was how I was receiving what the technology was giving me.  While functioning in “parish minister mode”, I felt like it was my responsibility to answer to all of the death and dying that kept coming my way.  Granted, part of this is just who I am as a result of my upbringing (which is a whole other story) I’m someone who always feels responsible.  Yet, what has come clear to me since leaving the parish in August and launching into an entirely new phase of academic study and diving deep into my intellectual thoughts is that the world isn’t my fault!  Who knew?

I’m not alone.  Ministers of all stripes regularly talk about self care and boundaries and intention, but we rarely actually do anything about any of it.  Too often, most of us spend much of our time feeling like the world is our fault.  Regardless of our personal theologies we take on this mountain of responsibility and then have no clue as to what to do with it.  This is part of why I’m coming back ‘online’. I realized that I’ve got some stuff to share that could help my colleagues and others who are part of the vast network of caregivers, support, pastoral ears, etc. who all feel like the world is our fault.

Over the next couple of months, I will relaunch my official website.  Nothing extravagant or super fancy (shout out and deep gratitude to the folks at DEV especially Rachel!) but a place where I can be found besides this blog.  I plan to also produce content here and in other platforms that will take a more pointed look at what sits behind the word “Spirituwellness”.  My hope is to return to some of my roots.  I embarked on ministry and started this blog because being a healer of bodies (massage therapy, fitness, Reiki) wasn’t quite enough.  I wanted to engage people around what they felt gave their lives meaning.  With five years of pastoral training and five years in the field, plus my prior studies and work with embodiment, I feel ready now to actually do what I intended from the beginning.

I’m also planning to test the waters of podcasting.  I’ve always loved the interview/conversation format and with some new tools I will be acquiring this month, I think its time.  All of this to say, look for me again on Instagram, LinkedIn and (ugh) Twitter.  I may even poke my head out on Facebook again (maybe a little Soundcloud and YouTube as well).  I’m giving social media a second chance.  See you again soon in the new year!

– ALD