Forced to sleep no more

“I hate feeling like this
So tired of trying to fight this
I’m asleep and all I dream of
is waking to you”
“Comatose” ­— Skillet

For more than 30 years, Willmar, Minn., was the home of the Sonshine Music Festival each summer, and I had the privilege for five of those years to provide security at the festival.

My chosen shift was from six in the morning until six at night, but I would also help cover evenings as needed during “big” shows that were going to require extra security personnel or when I wanted to go to the heavy metal stage and cover for one of the security members who inevitably would get injured throughout the week of being in the middle of mosh pits at that stage.

Skillet was a group that always drew a big crowd at the annual Christian music festival when they showed up. Their blend of hard rock, poignant lyrics, and adding in the symphonic harmonies of a violin and a cello brought in fans. Toss in a female drummer who provided exceptional backup vocals, and the band was unique and had excellent sound to back it up.

This particular tune is a personal favorite to get the adrenaline pumping, with the soaring strings crescendoing into a distorted guitar-heavy power chorus that you simply cannot help but be ready to run through a brick wall after you experience.

It’s the idea of physically being comatose that I want to touch on this week, though.

We’re going to reference the Merriam-Webster dictionary a few of times in this piece. The first time is to define comatose.

It states that “comatose” is “of, resembling, or affected with coma.” Hmmm. Okay, what is a coma, then?

“A state of profound unconsciousness caused by disease, injury, or poison,” says Merriam-Webster in its definition of coma.

That doesn’t sound like something to strive for at all, now, does it?

Let’s push out another definition for you.

“Aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues.”

Now, that sounds like an involved, interested member of society, right? Someone that is paying attention to what is going on in the world around them and the issues affecting the members of the society that they are actively participating in on a daily basis.

That absolutely sounds like people we want in this world!

Then, when Merriam-Webster finishes the definition with this little bit in parenthesis, we start down the road to partisan issues: “…(especially issues of racial and social justice).”

If you haven’t figured it out by now, that is, word for word, the definition of “woke” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

The first known use of woke in this way was in the early 1970s, to describe those who had been significantly influenced by the Civil Rights Movement and were seeking ways to better the lives of all humankind, not just those who had been racially marginalized, but all those who had been marginalized for any reason. The movement in the 1970s led to a significant awakening around women’s rights, religious rights, and so many other rights in this country that allowed for tremendous growth in technology and science that would not have happened without these previous walls being pushed down.

The phrase has been villainized by many who want to call “woke-ness” the reason that all things are bad in the world right now.

Yet, they don’t even understand what being “woke” truly is.

When asked in an interview to define what she believes the word means, conservative author Bethany Mendel, who writes a blog and recently wrote an entire book railing against the growth of woke culture, stumbled and bumbled and ended up giving a non-answer that defined all of…nothing.

Then when she did tweet out a comment after the live interview where she had her on-camera guffaw, she attempted to define being woke as, “a radical belief system suggesting that our institutions are built around discrimination, and claiming that all disparity is a result of that discrimination. It seeks a radical redefinition of society in which equality of group result is the end point, enforced by an angry mob.”

Compare the actual definition to that definition. Note that Mandel is absolutely focused on the negative in her stance. Much of the kick back to the term has come from the 2020 racial justice marches following the George Floyd murder.

In fact, in more than 30 states in 2022 and 2023, anti-riot bills were either signed into law or are/were proposed that would reduce the basic freedoms to protest in this country.


To protest.

Remember when this country was begun by tossing some tea over the side of a ship? Heck, remember when certain people were all sorts of excited about certain truckers clogging up distribution channels by refusing to move their rigs to protest getting a vaccine?

Let’s not even get into the member of Gov. Noem’s staff that went on social media this week and encouraged rioting if former President Donald Trump were to be arrested as part of investigations into his decades-long horrific business practices finally coming to light.

But those protests are okay. They’re cheered by the same people who are putting in laws to stop protests like those “riots” that happened in 2020 and caused “so much destruction.”

Yet, the price increases and supply chain disruption caused by vaccine protests is then also blamed on someone else, not the person who did the protest.

Hard to have it both ways.

This past fall, a student at O’Gorman High School in Sioux Falls drew national notice when he was told to cut his hair or find a new high school. He received threats, and the school received significant donations from white nationalist groups (because the student in question was Black) which they accepted.

In that moment, a Heartland-area college student living in Sioux Falls stood in unity with the O’Gorman student. Whether someone else’s hair is long or short, curly or straight, blonde or brunette, is not your choice or mine, and that was what a group of young people stood up to say.

Were they “woke” in their activism?

Absolutely, by definition.

By definition, they were aware of the hurt of a member of society, engaged in actively finding a way to bring attention to the society member’s plight, and worked to bring about change.

We live in a world of many different cultures. What I grew up with is not necessarily what you grew up with, and it is not only a good thing to learn about other cultures and other people in this world — it’s imperative.

Our children in Huron attend a school system with more than a dozen native languages/dialects spoken in the home. Those children come together in the classroom with an incredibly diverse background of experiences when they sit down in kindergarten, and there is a choice as a community to hammer one way into them, or to allow them to explore and learn about each person’s background in a way that enhances their own life.

The image has been repeated multiple times, but there is an old cartoon strip of a man getting ready to set sail. He is very set on the ways of his homeland, but he badly wants to explore as well. He packs up a boat with his favorite memories of his homeland and then unties the boat. He then keeps one foot on the homeland and one foot on the boat as the boat begins moving slowly away from shore until, finally, he falls face-first into the water.

Perhaps we needs a change of word because the term “woke” has become so toxic as certain groups want everyone to remain comatose.

So, use the boat analogy.

Understanding other cultures, races, religions, sexual identities, or any other group that would be different from your personal background isn’t going to make you no longer who you are.

Stepping onto the boat with all the things that are packed will still allow to take forward who you are, yet there is the opportunity to embrace others, understand their experiences in the world, and help to build a world that embraces them as well.

Perhaps that will allow for calmer sailing for everyone instead of a bunch of people hollering about being wet!