In recent years, the development of the English language has been socialized and decentralized. Prior to social media, advances in science and technology and literary experimentation often loaned themselves to the coinage of new words and terms to describe social and natural phenomena. For example, diesel and quixotic have their origins in the inventor of the diesel engine Rudolf Diesel and the errant imaginary knight Don Quixote respectively. In a more popular sense, languages undergo regional transformations. Californians get “stoked,” but not Texans. New Englanders think “wicked” in the same way as cool, but Marylanders will use “tough” as cool.
These phrases are not exclusive to the regions they are commonly associated with, as the free and fluid movement of Americans between the states softens regional differences. On the Internet, there are few such distinctions. Everyone checks the same social media platforms Instagram and Facebook, however different their feeds or timelines may be, and memes and stories tend to be unoriginal across the board. Recently, the phrase “stay woke,” a term whose origins I am not sure of, has come into popular usage. It is the concluding imperative to some revelation of guarded information. In other words, when someone tells you something’s fishy, you “stay woke”—stay informed, stay alert, stay engaged.
In the present tumultuous time period, when it is difficult to say whose interests—whether foreign, national or personal—the country’s leaders have at heart, and consumers are flooded with fake news and alternative facts, it is necessary to remind people not to believe everything they hear. We must exhort one another to utilize reason and remain critical and analytical. The difficulty of the task has only increased since the advent of the Internet. Information is so readily available that the Internet is saturated and glutted with it and discerning truth from a lie is an exhausting exercise.
Events are moving at a rapid pace in America. A flurry of executive orders—the immigration ban, a roll-back on further implementation of Obamacare, a strike against sanctuary cities—and the resignation of the National Security Advisor to the President have all occurred in less than a month. Washington and the nation are reeling. The President and his staff are completely aware of this and in fact have said these are the growing pains of a fundamental reorientation of American policy—a reorientation that a majority of Americans did not vote for and await anxiously.
The very real danger, as expressed in The Atlantic’s most recent cover article, is less that the President will attempt to assume all power and create a totalitarian state. The American republic, as inefficient and troubled as it may be, can withstand it. It is a complacency on the part of the people and Congress that it cannot guard against. In the next four years, the nation can either grow prosperous or head into a slow decline. Sudden self-destruction is unlikely. In case of a slow decline, the nation will inevitably turn to a new leader. However, should times be prosperous, will Trump’s ratings rise? Who will care what policies the government pursues or however rude the President is as long as life satisfaction is high? Staying woke is a necessity now at a time when the present and the future seem bleak. However, if those in government abuse their power and undermine American liberty in a time of prosperity, I fear we will forget and fall into a self-imposed, materialistic sleep.