Federal Way can benefit from embracing the ‘woke’ | Livingston

Let’s talk about the “anti-woke” charade and lack of leadership parade. As a country, we are about to celebrate our country’s 246th Independence Day. July 4 should be special to all of us. Benjamin Franklin, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, said when answering a question about the kind of government he had given us, replied: “a democracy, if you can keep it.”

Quite an accomplishment so far, since we as a nation are in a forever culture war of some type pitting religious fundamentalist ideas and exploitation economics or “anti-woke” — against seeking respect for all, truth and enlightenment, or being “woke.”

Sadly, our great nation was built in many ways on the economics of slavery, exploitation of the indigenous peoples who lived here first, ethnic and racial bigotry, unfettered capitalism, and a sense of imperial privilege as we succeeded beyond expectations. As a nation, we have never reconciled with our destructive past of exploiting human beings as slaves or the land we claimed in the name of manifest destiny — all based on a “God-given” right to make money regardless of who we hurt.

We have a lot to answer for and understand, but our attitude is, that is in the past and, let’s just ignore our pesky history and continue kicking that can down the road. Memories are long but progress has been made.

We celebrated June as Pride Month and Juneteenth as well. But as we celebrated in Federal Way, we have residents who are angry at any progress made toward bringing people out of the shadows and they are making their negative bullying voices heard at our city council and school board meetings. Being the loudest voice in the room rarely makes you right.

The ideas of equity, equality and meeting the needs of all citizens seem to be lost on this unenlightened group of noisy citizens that are bent on making Federal Way an ultra-conservative community adhering to a fundamentalist value set. Dealing fairly with real human problems, being kind, or honoring people who have been disrespected throughout history does not make sense to some, especially if it recognizes the contributions of our Black, Brown and LGBTQIA+ communities as well as the human needs of the less fortunate in our community.

To become a better nation, becoming “woke” is a must because the world needs America as a beacon of hope. By ignoring our past and giving into the fears preached by a few small-minded leaders, fundamentalist demagogues, and media distraction empires dividing us for personal gain, we are becoming unkind to anyone who does not conform to their beliefs.

One of our Seattle media stations, KOMO, recently aired a news story with an “anti-woke” message. The setup segment explained that the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia had passed legislation reducing college degree requirements for employment in many positions, allowing those with demonstrated skills and experience to apply. The segment that followed was a targeted piece designed to denigrate college degrees and being educated.

The segment talked about how college graduates were not able to find jobs because the education they received was “woke.” The attractive young lady delivering the message represented a conservative religious organization and stated she was having trouble finding a job because of the “woke courses” she took in college, and intimated that going to a skills-based system would benefit employers because the people they would be hiring would not have college “woke” baggage. The story was not news, but slickly delivered propaganda.

Our government’s challenge is to make a difference in everyone’s life equally and equitably. Sadly, some people feel threatened by change and believe their position of claimed superiority is threatened. Their solution is a battle cry for a return to “family values” and the “old ways.” I guess they also want a new family values police force monitoring what we do and think.

Change is hard on those who are seeing the world diversifying and reducing their ability to live in a self-segregated manner. Reality check: it should not be hard to choose to be a better person by being kind, respectful, and inclusive to all.

Overcoming a history of hate and human exploitation for economic gain is at the core of our challenge as a nation and is proving to be a difficult leadership task. It requires more courage than most of us have, but still, we must overcome the current wave of public bullying, demeaning those who are culturally different, living lives stressed by poverty, families dealing with incarceration, chemical dependencies, and shaping our policies to be inclusive and equitable in ways that meet people’s needs with dignity.

Becoming “woke” and encouraging people to read all books and embrace learning about one another is how we appeal to our better angels. For the sake of our nation and all who live here, it is a journey we must take if we are to become one as a nation, be a democracy by example, and be an integrator of nations.

Closer to home, Federal Way celebrated Pride Month this year with a mayoral proclamation because one or more council members expressed that LGBTQIA+ behavior was against their religious beliefs or they were concerned for their safety due to intimidation. I guess the message is that it is better to show no courage, support discrimination and keep our fellow citizens in the shadows than celebrate their journey.

We need to bring everyone out of the shadows. As a culture, we have forced people into the shadows — think race, multiple ethnicities, immigrants, and LGBTQIA+. When we celebrate our country’s differences and embrace the uniqueness of humankind we help everyone navigate a complex American culture and improve our nation’s well-being.

We all succeed when we understand that our independence is an interdependence that expands when we learn respect for all.

Have a wonderful and “woke” Independence Day holiday!

Keith Livingston is a retired municipal managament professional, lifelong artist and Federal Way resident. He can be reached at keithlivingstondesign@gmail.com