peace and justice files

Rainbows and reactionaries

Posted 6/28/23

I hope that everyone observing Pride Month has been having a safe, happy and healthy celebration!

Have you noticed, though, a few puzzling things in the public discourse lately? Certain themes …

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peace and justice files

Rainbows and reactionaries


I hope that everyone observing Pride Month has been having a safe, happy and healthy celebration!

Have you noticed, though, a few puzzling things in the public discourse lately? Certain themes that seem to intersect or overlap with surprising regularity? What is it, you may wonder, that connects Pride observances with... beer sales? Why are conservative consumers suddenly boycotting their favorite brands and stores? Cracker Barrel puts some rainbows on their rocking chairs and some patrons run away screaming? What’s going on here?

Why are corporate DEI policies and ESG investment strategies being attacked with the same ferocity—and often by the exact same people—as Drag Queen Story Hours? 

(Sorry, I don’t have room to gloss all these terms—but it’s sorry/not sorry because I really kinda want you to look this stuff up.)

The answer turns out to be both fairly simple and potentially terrifying: it’s a war, and we’re the target.

No, this isn’t some shady conspiracy theory—the folks involved have been quite staightforward (no pun intended) and in the open about their intentions. 

The names are familiar: the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), FOX News, the American Petroleum Institute, the Federalist Society and others.

Here’s just one example. According to a recent article by Karin Rives on the website, “a Kansas-based nonprofit called the State Financial Officers Foundation has played a leading role in the state campaign against ESG investment with the help of strategic public relations firm CRC Advisors, retained in spring 2022. By the end of the year, half a dozen organizations and most U.S. states with Republican leadership were on board, records show.

“The chairman of CRC Advisors is Leonard Leo, the co-chair of the conservative legal nonprofit Federalist Society and an influential Republican activist.”

Did that name ring a bell? Mr. Leo and the Federalist Society have been key players in the machinations that have pulled the Supreme Court to the right, and led to the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade.

But wait—let’s step back a moment before we get too bogged down in details. What is this “war” all about, anyway?

I think this war is about the death of a certain narrative—a traditionalist narrative of domination that has held sway over our culture for far too long. It includes various mutually reinforcing mythologies, from American Exceptionalism to white supremacism, from exploitation of the environment to the subservience of women.

This narrative’s hold on power is nearing its end for a number of reasons—demographic changes, increased access to information and so on. The folks who have wielded that narrative to justify their abuses are well aware of this.

So they are, in a very real sense, fighting for their lives—and they intend to hold onto their power by any means necessary. In this battle, anything that is seen to undermine “traditional” power relations is an existential threat, the proverbial “nose in the tent” that precedes the destruction of all they hold dear—and must therefore be eradicated.

So they tell their audiences some pretty outlandish, even apocalyptic, things. “The ‘S’ in ‘ESG’ stands for ‘Satanic,’” Elon Musk stated recently. And that’s far from the worst of it.

But two can play that game. We have to engage with the language that’s being wielded now, because the next steps are physical, messy and painful.

OK, then, here’s my contribution to the discourse: I say the opposite of “woke” is “STUCK.”

Stuck in the past. Stuck to old and outdated ideas. Stuck in rigidly defined and inflexible roles. Stuck to ways of doing things that just don’t work or make sense anymore.

If we can all get ourselves unstuck, then we can make some progress.

pride month, peace and justice, files, woke, stuck


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