Category Archives: Woke

American Fiction


American Fiction  is , as its title suggests, yet another film about Fantasyland.  In some respects it is not real. In other respects it is all too real.  This is a very appropriate title for a film that explores one of America’s many Fantasy Lands. Walt Disney’s Fantasyland is an American creation that has stood the test of time. Just like America as Fantasyland itself.

The protagonist in this film is Thelonious “Monk” Ellison a black writer and professor in Los Angeles. His novels have received academic praise, but sell poorly, and publishers have rejected his most recent manuscript for not being “black enough.”

Monk’s literary agent tries to urge Monk to be realistic and take another approach. Give the public what it wants, even if it is crap. The agent says to Monk, “Your books are good but they’re not popular.” His publisher has rejected his latest book. The agent tells him  “They want a black book.” What is a black book? Monk has an answer: “They got a black book. I’m black and they’ve got the book.” But this incident causes Monk to embark on a flight of apoplexy.

Meanwhile his the University where he teaches has put him on suspension over intemperate politically incorrect remarks he made to his students about racial issues. Teh university bosses  suggest he attend a literary seminar  and spend time with his family in Boston. Of course, he doesn’t really want to be with his family. As he says, “All successful writers are tormented by their families.” His family is certainly no exception.

Monk’s mother is in the early stages of dementia. HIs sister Lisa is a physician who  tries to cheer Monk up. Lisa tells him, “Your books change peoples’ lives!” But Monk asks her, “Has anything I’ve ever written changed your life?” She responds, “Absolutely, my dining room table was wobbly as hell before your last book came out. It was like perfect!”

Monk attends a literary event in Boston in which black novelist Sintara Golden is reading from her new novel We’s Lives in Da Ghetto which seems to pander to black stereotypes. It is immensely popular, unlike his work.  It is filled with black stereotypes that Monk cannot stand. How could she be a successful “black” writer while he is suffering in the wings of the boondocks?

Monk’ literary agent encourages him to do the same thing that worked so well for Sintara. Monk listens to her reading from her novel which he despises. In disgust, Monk decides to write his own black novel as a joke. As Monk said, “If they want stereotypes, I’m going to give them stereotypes. “Dead beat dads. Rappers. Crack.”   He calls the book My Pafology and it contains every trope white readers expect from black novels. It has a melodramatic plot involving bad dialogue, deadbeat dads, gang violence, and drugs. As Monk says, “I just want to rub their noses in it.” And much to his surprise the book publisher loves it and pays him a $750,000 advance which is money he really can use. They won’t even take back their offer when he insists the book be called “Fuck.”

And it turns out to be a book the whites in the Hamptons will love. His black book is a spectacular success. Even though he wrote it as a joke, as his agent says, “its the most lucrative joke you ever told.”

Yet I kept wondering if his book was  really as bad as he claimed. Maybe the readers knew that his “serious” books were crap and his “junk novel” was actually a gem. In the world of fantasies who knows where the truth lies? Not I.

Monk’s family adds elements of great comedy. The film is filled with surprises.  Monk’s brother Cliff is a cantankerous gay man who does everything he can to rock the boat.  When a white neighbour, married to “the rules,” tells them they can’t spread the ashes of their mother in the ocean as she had requested,  Cliff tells him if you try to stop me, “I’ll eat your sweater vest for dinner.”

This film is a black comedy in more than one sense of that word. It really mocks the woke world of liberal white society. And there is no easier target in modern American society than that. The move is an intellectual romp through the racist memes of the publishing world and beyond.  It will make for a fine cinema experience.

A Safe Place to Hate.


There had been a lot of social change just before Rush Limbaugh arrived on the scene. There was gay liberation, women’s rights, and liberalism. Many felt they could no longer say what they wanted to say. Political correctness was seen as a stifling chain. They also thought no one was speaking like them or to them. They were ignored and invisible. As Justin Ling said in his CBC. Radio series , “In the universe of right-wing media compared to the Wall Street Journal and like the later Fox News Limbaugh’s listeners were older, whiter, more conservative, and more religious. For this slice of America Limbaugh created a safe space.” He created a safe place to hate.

Surprisingly, because there was a Republican in the White House, as Ling said, “he convinced these old, white, conservative, and religious Americans that they were disenfranchised!” Even though they were in the majority! It was pure alchemy. He told them they were looked down on. He milked them for their resentment—the elixir of devils. As Ling said, “He formed a kind of counterculture; a resistance against the liberals, and the progressives, and the feminists.”

In the mid-80s he syndicated to about 50 stations across the country but by 1990 he got 450 affiliates. He was the rock star of talk radio and the conservative movement. He led a Rush to Excellence Tour to various stadiums around the country with as many as 10,000 people.  As Justin Ling said, “Limbaugh declared a culture war”. Limbaugh put it this way:

“We are in the midst of a culture war. What are rights? This culture war illustrates precisely what is going on. We in America are in the midst—it’s an exciting time to be alive—we are in the midst of a redefinition of who is going to define right and wrong, what the punishment is going to be for those who violate the limits that we place on our behavior. We are arguing about who has the right to tell us what is right and what is wrong. We’re arguing over what censorship is And to me its pretty scary.”


And there it is again—fear—the secret sauce of paranoia and right-wing hysteria.

Like Trump later, Limbaugh went from being a spoiled rich kid to a champion of the working class. People all over America were starting to take notice of Limbaugh. I remember at the time hearing about him from a friend of mine, a trucker. Truckers loved Limbaugh, just like they later loved Trump and basically for the same reasons. They liked to have a wrecking ball in their corner as did my friend the trucker, and much later the truckers convoy in Ottawa in 2022. They got a rush from Rush Limbaugh.

As Justin Ling said, “On his radio show he was the voice of God on a one way street. And he loved nothing better than to run over liberal women. On his radio show he said, “this is a show devoted to what I think.” On the Dave Lettermen show he said people were bugged by him because “I have almost a monopoly on the truth.” No one could ever accuse Limbaugh of humility. Humility was a liberal vice. And his fans loved it.  He also said “This is a benevolent dictatorship. I am the dictator. There is no first amendment here except for me.”

Now he was entitled to be the dictator of his own show. If we don’t like it, we don’t have to listen to it.


Problems must be squarely faced


I  like listening to UN Secretary-General António Guterres who always speaks bluntly. He never holds back on his punches. recently,  he said, “We can’t confront problems unless we look them squarely in the eye. And we are looking into the eye of a Category 5 Hurricane. Our world is plagued by a perfect storm of problems.” He was referring to climate change, coronavirus, the war in Ukraine, and the possible recession that seemed to be advancing.

This is an important lesson. American conservatives have not learned it. They want the facts of racism in their country to be sugar-coated for themselves and for their children. This is an awful mistake.

In fact, in my opinion this is what it means to be woke. Confronting problems rather than evading them. That’s why so many conservatives don’t want to be woke.