Who would have thought I would agree with every single word spoken by former president Barack Obama? Certainly not me, but yet I did. Former president Obama, speaking at a symposium at his foundation in Chicago, basically told the “politically woke” to get over it.
For those readers as old as I am, “woke” refers to a particular awareness of social and racial issues. Again, for readers of a certain age, “cancel culture” is basically ostracizing someone from social and professional circles. The New York Times spoofed cancel culture by showing a woman in the Middle Ages being herded by a mob to a gallows to be “cancelled” by hanging. The video showed the crowd demanding a properly abject apology to save one from hanging. The cancel culture is also referred to as the “call-out culture” by some. It allows some superior folks to identify those who have committed some offense against a particular community by calling them out for their sins. Some believe the origins of the call-out culture came about on college campuses where students began insisting words were a form of violence, along with ideas or people espousing contrary views. This caused the need for “safe spaces” for college students.
Obama spoke directly to those young progressives who consider themselves properly and perfectly “woke.” Speaking in terms blunt enough for even the slowest amongst them to understand, Obama said these folks were too ideologically rigid and downright judgmental. The former president said, “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re politically woke and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly.” Obama pointed out the reality of the world as it is for the young wide awake wokesters. “The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids and share certain things with you.”
The former president also issued what amounts to a warning. After having visited college campuses with his daughter Malia, Obama said he had noticed a disturbing trend. That same trend Obama described as a “danger” which he believed has been “accelerated by social media.”
Obama said it was readily apparent too many young people think the way to bring about change “is to be as judgmental about other people as possible, and that’s enough.”
Former president Obama gave an example, “If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself, because, man, you see how woke I was?” Obama observed attacking some poor soul for the mistake or poor choice of words was giving the attackers a sense of self-satisfaction. The former president said public shaming is not the equivalent of activism.
“That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do.”
It seems to me those folks calling out others, insisting the offender be banished from social circles, fired from their jobs and the like, must consider themselves perfect. “Ye who is without sin cast the first stone” and the rocks have been flying now for some time. Certainly long enough for a former president to call out those who delight in calling out others.
The desire to call out these people and the venom oftentimes behind the insistence for “justice” is all too often a barely disguised mob mentality of angry villagers, replete with torches and pitchforks and I would remind you nothing good ever came out of a large group of disorderly and mad people who have largely lost their collective minds.
Barack Obama did the country a service by bringing this to the attention of fellow Americans because, after all, just what is the point of the call-out cancel culture? What exactly does repeated, oftentimes incredibly harsh, denunciation serve? Exiling people or consigning them to the seventh level of a proverbial Hell for the crime of disagreeing with you is a scary thing. Every totalitarian regime on earth has punished those who did not fall into line or agree with the ideals of that particular regime. Too many of these young people who derive pleasure and self-satisfaction from piling on and calling out no longer believe in free speech; they don’t believe people of an opposing opinion ought to be allowed to state it. The piling on by digital mobs is all too reminiscent of lynchings or public murders.
People are called “Nazis” constantly now, largely by people too young and ignorant to understand just how terrible those folks really were. Yet Nazis would be the first to agree that opposing opinions and ideas different from theirs should be stamped out or eliminated. The worst excesses and brutalities known to mankind were birthed in that belief.
Barack Obama deserves the thanks of every American who believes in the healing touch of forgiveness and love. Former President Obama deserves the thanks of those Americans who still believe in free speech for all. President Obama deserves the thanks of every person who believes in civility. As we have observed Thanksgiving, I can say I am truly thankful for what Barack Obama had to say and hope we, as a society, take it to heart.