I was shocked when I learned about McCarthyism, one of the darkest times in American history. Led by Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, it was tyranny wrapped in the flag; he and his cronies went after anyone they thought was a danger to American democracy. Actually, it was capitalism that seemed to be the driving doctrine as they searched far and wide for socialists, communists, and anarchists lurking in the shadows, waiting to take over America. His targets were often intellectuals; artists, writers, Hollywood types – people who spoke against the “Red Scare” and had the audacity to believe in free speech. People who believed that America in the early 1950’s was in danger from within. At first, President Eisenhower refused to speak against McCarthy, saying he was taking the high road (or maybe he was afraid of M’s popularity). By 1954, however, the president ordered all administration and executive branch employees to ignore any summons to appear before the committee, which essentially shut the investigation down, ending that oppressive era. McCarthy died three years later of alcoholism at the age of 47.
I think we are seeing a resurgence of this madness in the vocal, and sometimes violent reaction to “wokeness”. To be clear: the use of violence to gain political power is inexcusable, no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, and I firmly believe that there should be limits on some subjects being taught in schools. Some topics are not age appropriate and adults should use the commonsense God gave them to understand those limitations. This is why, for example, I would never teach young children in church about King David raping Bathsheba; some topics are too sensitive and need to be taught when children can better handle them. The attacks against wokeness, however, remind me too much of McCarthyism, Maoism, and Stalinism. These ideologies exist to promote a single-minded understanding of order and control that are anti-democratic and anti-American.
To be woke is to recognize the inequities is systems that should be about equality. Laws that are biased against a group based on race, gender, or sexual orientation are systemically wrong, and to recognize that imbalance is to be awakened to the need to change them. Legislating that children and teachers can’t talk about a student’s family vacation because that child has two moms or dads is inequity; it isn’t the same as doing sex education with 5-year-olds. Parents who choose to bring their children to the local library for Drag Queen Story Time is different from allowing children into a bar for a Drag Queen Burlesque Show. Watching the movie “Some Like it Hot” (1959) is not the same as watching pornography. I feel ridiculous even writing these things, but I have found that there are many adults who don’t understand these things. How is a man wearing nail polish any different from a woman wearing a bowtie? Lady Gaga can look cute in a tuxedo, but RuPaul can’t wear a dress? Ridiculous.
Those who live in fear of difference need to be woken up from their ignorance, and those who think that anything goes need the same. For this new McCarthyism to continue, people need to throw out their common sense. It may have already happened to those who have fallen asleep; please don’t let it happen to you. Wake up America; we have more important things to worry about.
Prayer – Help us to wake up to Your justice, God of all creation so that we do not fall asleep at the wheel as the innocent are abused by the self-righteous. Amen.