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Silent3's Journal
Silent3's Journal
April 29, 2021

"Woke", "cancel culture", and the meaning of words

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

There's been a lot of heated discussion around here about what James Carville said about "wokeness", and similarly, about "cancel culture", and if it even exists or not.

It's important to realize in such discussions that words mean different things to different people. Meanings of words and phrases shift and evolve, and, whether some people like it or not, changes happen to the general understanding of what words mean that aren't to everyone's liking. Meanings seldom completely settle down either, so the same words mean different things in different contexts.

It's one thing to insist on what you believe is the "correct" meaning for certain words. It's quite another, however, to impose your own meaning on a word or phrase and then act as if what someone else has said, no matter how they might have actually meant it, must be treated as if their words bear your preferred meaning.

Someone posted that there "Ain't no such thing as 'too woke'". Well, if you insist that the only possible meaning of "woke" is a good one, meaning being conscious of privilege, and seeking and demanding justice and fairness, you'd be right. You can't have too much of that.

But do you really imagine Carville is saying, "Too many Democrats are too concerned with fairness and justice. They need dull their awareness of privilege, and let some nasty shit slip by, if they want to win elections"?

I think it's pretty obvious that Carville is talking about issues like obnoxious levels of word policing, or insisting that everyone must admit they're a racist, or be an even worse racist for not admitting to being one at all. Let's not pretend their aren't people out there in this world who get fucking annoying about trying to one-up each other in performative wokeness.

You might still disagree with Carville, but then get to the real disagreement rather than arguing against a straw-man Carville of your own creation. Try giving Carville the benefit of the doubt about meaning something where he might, just might, have a point, and see where that takes you.

If you want to argue for what words do mean, or should mean, fine. But don't stupidly act as if other people must mean their words way you mean those same words, and then tar them with all that goes along with imposing your meanings.
April 8, 2021

My letter to Senator Joe Manchin

I am deeply frustrated by what I'm hearing about your opposition to eliminating, or even mildly reforming, the filibuster.

There is no "new era of bipartisanship" coming. It is not going to happen. You must know this. Republicans in the Senate are interested in one thing, and one thing only: retaining and regaining Republican power. Period. End of story.

Hurting Biden's presidency, and damaging general public opinion of Democratic politicians, is their principal goal. Given the choice between passing legislation that helps the American people, or hurting Biden and other Democrats by stymieing progress, they will choose stymieing progress every time.

Republicans most certainly do not want to help with anything that protects voters' rights. Suppressing votes is their other main strategy for retaining and regaining power.

Again, I am certain you must be aware of this. So what good does it do to pretend you are promoting a fanciful "new era of bipartisanship"?

Our very democracy is at stake here. If Democrats don't both impress the voters of this country with tangible progress over the next two years, and ensure that Democratic votes will be properly counted two years from now, we could lose everything to Republicans who have lost all reluctance in displaying naked disrespect for, and opposition to, democracy itself. If and when such Republicans regain control, you can be certain they will have no respect for any Democratic minority which remains. Your preservation of the filibuster for use by future Democrats will be for naught.

The only reason Republicans have not already destroyed the filibuster is that they haven't needed to. The only things Mitch McConnell wanted to do for the past four years were pass tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and stuff the courts with extremist right-wing judges. Between using budget reconciliation, and filibuster exceptions for confirming judges, Republicans had all they needed. You can be certain that if they regain power, and want to do more, they'll again do whatever they have to do to bypass Democrats, and they will not respect your previous preservation of the filibuster in the least.

Please, wake up, and help Biden and your fellow Democrats save our country. Even at the possible cost of your own re-election in your one state, please help pave the way for Democratic victories in many other states.

A day may come when there is a "loyal opposition" party Democrats can work with and compromise with for the good of the country, a day when Democratic Party defeat can be viewed as a temporary setback, and not an existential risk. But that day is at the very least years away. The current Republican party has become completely radicalized, unprincipled, and unmoored from democratic norms. Please do not abandon the hopes of our nation to an unrealistic pipe dream of near-term bipartisanship.

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Gender: Male
Hometown: New Hampshire
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Member since: Sun Oct 3, 2004, 03:16 PM
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