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By Robert Scott
Vocabulary can be a puzzling thing, perhaps now more than ever. Our country was born of rebellion, with Tories against Whigs. The Tories called themselves Loyalists and branded their opponents as Traitors; the Whigs called themselves Minutemen and pretended that their opponents were foreigners bent on bending true Americans to the arbitrary will of “divine right” princes. Most, of course, were not foreigners at all; the American Revolution could easily be called the First Civil War, one that our Founding Fathers won and many of the losers either left for Canada or gradually accustomed themselves to having lost. Ignored, of course, were the wishes of most women and of African slaves, who found themselves at the bottom of the pecking order no matter which side prevailed. There were names for them, too, names that are no longer used in polite society.
Name-calling has returned with a vengeance following the four Trump years. Those on one side call themselves “Patriots,”with the obvious conclusion that those who disagree with them cannot be considered patriotic in any sense of the word. Those on the other side are called “Woke,” without any effort to define that term other than by listing areas with which the self-styled patriots disagree. What are some of those areas? To begin with, those who are called woke are less likely to see gender minorities as disgraceful, whereas their opponents frequently dismiss such minorities as being delusional at best and predatory at worst. Are there really people who are biologically LGBT – lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender? Or are such people just like the rest of us, only mentally ill? Those who are woke see such folk as different from most of us, but worthy of respect not because of but despite such differences. The long and as-yet unfinished journey of racial minorities to full participation in American society provides a lesson that the woke then apply to gender minorities.
How about patriotism? Does revulsion at repeated gun-enabled massacres at schools, at grocery stores, at theaters call out for strong gates and ever more arms to protect ourselves, if you are a patriot? Or could it be considered patriotism to want to protect others by disarming those other than law enforcement and military, at least when it comes to military-style weapons? Can it be considered patriotism to work for safety without such weapons, rather than ostensibly working for safety by increasing the numbers of “good guys with a gun”? Those considered to be woke think so, but they in turn deride their opponents as “right wingnuts.”
It is likely a vain hope to wish for a toning down of such rhetoric where only those who agree with one’s own views can be considered patriots, and everybody else is either “woke” or a “wingnut.” There is an election coming up, not yet a presidential one but nevertheless an election in which name-calling is everywhere. When you are considering whom to vote for and whom to vote against, you could do a lot worse than listen to the names being called – and to vote against those who are the loudestwhen calling others names.