JOSH MESKER: The ‘woke’ left and the death of tolerance

The United States of America is still a young nation. It was only 244 years ago that the Declaration of Independence — penned by a 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson — was ratified by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, with its famous signatories adding their names shortly thereafter.

This charter of freedom was a revolutionary act, both politically and quite literally. It declared that the individual rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” were granted by God, not the government, and therefore, no government had the authority to infringe upon them, while also separating the American colonies from Great Britain. War ensued.

Another war followed less than 100 years later, but this time it was among ourselves. An estimated 620,000 Americans lost their lives in the Civil War — a bloody conflict that stirs debate even to this day, but one that ultimately created “a more perfect Union” under the Constitution for our historically disenfranchised African American brothers and sisters.

After all, we are all created equal. Our deeply held belief in this universal truth has gotten us through other times of friction, as well — from women’s suffrage to the march for civil rights — and our professed, foundational convictions have always been strengthened. But there now exists a growing movement within that doesn’t appear to share in the values of free speech and tolerance for differing viewpoints.

We got a taste of the “woke” left during the Occupy Wall Street protests of the early 2010s, though it was fairly innocuous compared to what the very same cultural force has become: Antifa and other violent, Marxist front groups in the streets, and a self-righteous “cancel culture” on social media. It is now a demand for total ideological conformity — or else.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is one of the de facto political leaders of this movement, even going so far as to recently call for the blacklisting of high-profile supporters of President Donald Trump. Contextually, the purpose is to maliciously “cancel” anyone who worked for or otherwise supported Trump’s presidency.

The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin made this goal abundantly clear, saying before the election:

Shunning, shaming these people is a statement of moral indignation that these people are not fit for polite society. […] It’s not only that Trump has to lose, but that all his enablers have to lose. We have to collectively, in essence, burn down the Republican Party. We have to level them because if there are survivors, if there are people who weather this storm, they will do it again.

From this sentiment, the so-called “Trump Accountability Project” was born — an actual database that activists could add names to for reprisal later. No one’s character, career, or even family would be safe from getting shunned, silenced, and “canceled” forever. It’s something that even former President Barack Obama warned against last October when speaking at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago.

He said the dangerous phenomenon has been “accelerated by social media” and offered the following advice:

This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. […] If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.

Sadly, Obama’s call for grace and pragmatism seems to have gotten lost in the noise, especially as businesses have been set ablaze and looted, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, broken dreams, and destroyed lives all in the name of “social justice.” Somehow, this term has become synonymous with defunding the police, dismantling the nuclear family, and remaking Western Civilization into a socialist one. But there is no justice to be found in these naive, historically ignorant ideas, in spite of the “woke” left’s claims to the contrary.

Make no mistake: The goal is to spread enough fear and societal disruption that America’s political leaders will relent. All the while, the online “cancel culture” blazes forward to gaslight and silence anyone standing in the way. The likely victory of Joe Biden has only emboldened it, with his calls to “unity” — which we will charitably assume are genuine — falling on deaf ears.

To be sure, Biden himself had a chance to push back against the unruly mob months ago. Instead, he chose to vacillate between silence and equivocation, likely because political advisers calculated that this movement could be used to his benefit. It wasn’t until just before the election, following the tragic violence in Philadelphia that left one man dead and several police officers injured, that Biden released a statement condemning these tactics in specific terms.

He said, in part:

Attacking police officers and vandalizing small businesses, which are already struggling during a pandemic, does not bend the moral arc of the universe closer to justice. It hurts our fellow citizens. Looting is not a protest, it is a crime. It draws attention away from the real tragedy of a life cut short.

Unfortunately, Pandora’s Box has been opened, and there is no closing it now unless we all do it together. It isn’t even necessary to be an ardent Trump supporter to see what is happening here and be concerned about the future of American culture. If we don’t find a way for all of us to be tolerant of each other and reject witch-hunts and violence, America’s future — the very foundation upon which it stands — is in serious jeopardy.

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