Quick Memes, Part 3

It’s time to take a look at a few memes that are Stupid and Bad, but which don’t warrant an entire post.  Enjoy! (Here are parts 1 and 2, if you missed them.)


is it legal

The mind of a smart man asks “Is it legal and right, and if it’s not legal, does the rightness of it outweigh the possible legal ramifications?  Is right for me the same as right for everybody else?  Is my right more important than other folks’ right?  If I think that something illegal is nevertheless right, should I try to reform the laws concerning that thing, or should I just do as I wish and damn the consequences?”  And then the smart man starts to realize that ethical decisions are far more complicated than the simple dichotomy suggested by this meme.

Be aware: if anybody has ever called you a slave because you concerned yourself with questions of legality, that person is a fool, and he’s no friend to you.  A real friend would not offer a false dilemma like this one in order to goad you into making potentially life-altering decisions.  A friend would encourage you to consider all aspects of an ethical decision – legality, fairness, long-term consequences, and so on – before making an informed decision.  And if, in the end, you decide that the rightness of an act is more important than its legality (or lack thereof), then so be it.  But at least you’ll have considered all the relevant details and will have made your decision accordingly, and you’ll know that you’ve made your decision not just as a free person, but as a wise person.


Fences

Several things wrong here:

  • Just because some “rednecks” enjoy watching NASCAR doesn’t mean that rednecks contracted, designed, or built the fences the surround NASCAR tracks.
  • Even if they did, there’s a huge difference between building a fence that will stop a 190-mile-per-hour stock car (and the flying debris inevitably associated with it) and building a fence that will stop a nimble person determined to get past it.  People trying to cross the United States-Mexico border – let’s be honest…when you said illegal aliens, you weren’t talking about Canadians, were you? – are seldom (probably never) driving 190-mile-per-hour stock cars.
  • There is currently a “wall” along the United States’ southern border, but it’s an incomplete hodgepodge of various fence types.  There have been political pushes to complete it – especially during election years – but the price tag for this project is uncertain and unpredictable.

So, yeah.  Building a 2000-mile-long fence across various types of terrain is altogether a different task than building a 2-mile-long fence around a NASCAR track.  This meme’s author is trying to compare apples to oranges, and probably feels terribly clever for doing so.  To the author:  Stop it.  You’re not clever.

Also, stop calling them illegal aliens, you racist prick.


IntelligenceTest

This is a personal quibble and I understand if you disagree, but I hate these little “math” puzzles posing as intelligence tests.  It’s not that I don’t get it.  I get it.  I see the pattern, and given any pair of numbers, I could generate the expected “solution”.  For example:

55,500,000 + 55,611,111 = 111,111,111,111,111

Or:

228,333 + 228,456 = 123,456,789

Now that’s clever.  But I digress.  The problem with these “math” puzzles, besides the fact that they use non-standard definitions for the plus and equal signs, is that they aren’t intelligence tests at all.  They’re nothing but sharebait.  The “puzzles” presented in these memes are generally trivial in order to maximize the number of people who solve them and pass them along.  Why?  Because a challenging puzzle – a puzzle that really makes you work for that shot of self-satisfaction when you solve it – would hardly get any exposure at all.  These stupid math puzzles give you the impression that you’ve done something smart, when all you’ve done is cleared the minimum hurdle necessary to share somebody else’s meme.


Gays and Guns

Capital idea!   Our approach to gun ownership should exactly mirror our approach to marriage: it’s only legal with the state’s consent and it must be thoroughly documented!

Or would you rather just acknowledge that marriage rights and gun rights are separate issues, and that supporting one doesn’t obligate you to support the other?

Your call.


Privileged Earned

I’d say you’re wrong, Morpheus.  You might be successful because of your education and hard work, but you’re privileged because of the station into which you were born, and because of society’s reaction to that station.  Ignoring privilege doesn’t make it go away.


Facebook Feeds The Hungry

No it doesn’t.  Facebook’s charitable donations are not affected by the number of people that share a meme.  Just like the math puzzle above, this is sharebait.  Its only purpose is to reward you with a false sense of self-satisfaction in exchange for a minimum amount of effort.

If you want to make a real difference, donate real money to real organizations that are working to alleviate hunger and sickness in developing nations.  If you’re a genuine activist, leave the comfort of your home and nation to volunteer in the regions struck by famine, war, and poverty.  Real change takes real effort; clicking “Share” on Facebook isn’t going to do it.


Stand Up and Be Men

Did you ever read something so blatantly sexist that you have to read it twice because you’re certain you misread it the first time?  For me, that’s this meme.  Yowza, what a load of sexist bullshit!  I didn’t even realize they had memes back in the 1950s!


Pennies from Heaven

“When an angel misses you”?  Are you operating under the misconception that angels are the departed souls of our loved ones?  Because if you are, I have to tell you: that flies contrary to your own religious dogma.  I researched the topic briefly, and here’s the theological consensus, as best as I can tell: angels are not humans, nor have they ever been.  According to most religious scholars, angels were created by God specifically to be his right hand not-men; humans, on the other hand, are spiritual beings in physical bodies.  Death is not some kind of graduation from human to angel; it’s merely a passage from physical human to non-physical human.  Or so the Scripture goes.

I’m not trying to tell you what to believe, but those who are telling you what to believe say that people don’t become angels when they die.

If we take this meme at face value, it raises all sorts of interesting questions:

  • Do angels materialize pennies themselves, or do they take already-minted pennies from somewhere else?
  • If they create coins ex nihilo, could they destabilize the economy by injecting enough money into the system?  Do angels have to be careful about that, keeping close tabs on how much money they’ve given away?
  • If angels get their coins from somewhere else on Earth, where?  A fountain, perhaps?  Do angels routinely search between peoples’ couch cushions for loose change, which they redistribute to people who are feeling glum?
  • If angels are the messengers of God, does God direct them to drop pennies?  How do they decide who gets a penny and who doesn’t?
  • Is there a way for people who are really upset to get larger values of money – say, quarters?
  • Do angels deliver pennies only to Christians, or can people of other faiths – and atheists – benefit as well?
  • Do people living in other countries also get US pennies, or do they get coins from their own currency?  Given the abysmal buying power of a single penny, it wouldn’t seem to matter much.  But still, if I lived in Uruguay, being given a useless US penny by an angel would almost seem like an insult.

I eagerly await the advisement of learned theologians on these queries.

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Everything Old Is Chic-Fil-A Again

Chic Fil A vs Saudi Arabia

Whoa, is it 2012 again?

I’m asking because that was the year the Chic-fil-A / gay marriage kerfuffle erupted, inspiring some of the most nail-bitingly stupid memes ever to hit the Internet.  I thought the meme-storm was mostly passé by the time StupidBadMemes opened its virtual doors half a year later.  I thought I’d missed my chance to dissect a pro-Chic-fil-A meme.  Not so!  For reasons I don’t quite understand, this meme appears to be making the rounds again!  Who says you never get a second chance?

Actually, this is a slight rewording of a meme I saw during the pinnacle of those heated conflicts of opinion.  The original meme claimed that the owner of OPEC put homosexuals to death.  I guess somebody realized that OPEC is an international consortium of oil-producing nations that has no distinct “owner”, because now the meme has changed to focus on one nation specifically: Saudi Arabia.  Despite that small correction, there’s plenty of stupidity packed in here.  Let’s take a look, finally, at what makes this meme so awful.

For starters, it misses the point entirely.  Let’s be honest, the Chic-fil-A problem goes much deeper than some conservative businessman’s opinions on marriage.  The charitable arm of Chic-fil-A, WinShape, donated more than five million dollars to anti-gay groups.  When I say anti-gay, I mean really, dangerously anti-gay.  Some of the beneficiaries of Chic-fil-A’s “charity” include:

  • Exodus International – a now-defunct group formerly focused on conversion therapy, a controversial and potentially dangerous means of “converting” homosexuals to a heterosexual lifestyle.
  • Family Research Council – a conservative Christian lobbying organization that was labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group.
  • Marriage & Family Foundation – formerly known as the Marriage & Family Legacy Fund; this was a project of the Marriage CoMission with the stated goal of encouraging corporations to use their influence as community leaders to guide America’s values back to the traditional family.  (The Marriage & Family Foundation and the Marriage CoMission appear to be extinct, although WinShape donated nearly three million dollars (PDF, scroll to page 22) as recently as 2011.)

These are just a few of the organizations that were once supported by WinShape – and therefore by Chic-fil-A – whose purposes included blocking marriage equality.  I can’t speak for everybody, but when I personally decided to avoid Chic-fil-A, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to line the pockets of the Cathy family; it was because I didn’t want any of my dollars to find their way into projects that would ultimately hurt people – if not physically, then by denying them access to the same basic rights I enjoy.

If you’ve been a Chic-fil-A supporter and/or a staunch advocate of “traditional” marriage, this is the point at which you’re likely to cry “Hypocrite!”  I intend to answer that charge in a moment, but first…we need to discuss another major flaw in this meme: the notion that there is any such thing as “traditional” marriage.


I understand why people speak of “traditional” marriage: it comforts and appeals to conservatives.  But a quick peek in the history book shows us that the idea of marriage evolves from century to century and from culture to culture.  In other words, “traditional” marriage is akin to “traditional” language, or “traditional” fashion.  Marriage cannot be pinned down like that.

Consider my wife and me.  Although we have what conservatives would call a “traditional” marriage, our union is not typical of marriages throughout history.  We did not marry to seal a political pact.  We did not marry for the benefit of our families.  I did not pay a dowry for my wife’s hand, nor did I have to win her in combat (although my wife tells me that would have been really hot).  I don’t have more than one wife, and I don’t expect my wife to be subservient to me.  We chose each other because we were in love.  Is our marriage traditional?  In many other places and times, people would not think so.

The notion that the conservative American Christian definition of marriage is backed by centuries of tradition is a myth.  Even in the last hundred years, our country has seen significant revisions to laws regarding who could and couldn’t get married, and to the expectations of husbands and wives within the bonds of marriage, as Stephanie Coontz pointed out in a 2012 article written for The Daily Beast.

When same-sex marriage opponents pretend that their views are steeped in tradition, I feel they are falsely attributing the authority of history to their opinions.  In fact, history grants no authority to any one position regarding marriage.  Each generation must decide anew what is and isn’t a marriage, and many conservatives seem to be threatened by the possibility that the next generation’s decision might not go their way.


So, am I a hypocrite?  After all, I do purchase gasoline, which is produced from petroleum, which is drilled in some countries that do have horrible human rights records, especially where homosexuals are concerned.  How can I knowingly give money (and apparently, my assent) to one organization that threatens homosexuals while boycotting another?

As much as it rankles me to say this, it would be nigh impossible for me or most other people to get by without gasoline.  Much as I hate it, I am dependent on it.  I live far enough from my workplace that walking and biking are not feasible options.  Short of buying an electric car, there are no tenable solutions I could employ to avoid consuming fossil fuels, or to avoid giving money to companies that do.  If anybody knows of a way I could avoid all petroleum products without disastrously disrupting my life, believe me: I would be ecstatic to hear it.

While Americans are forced to support OPEC, I still believe we should set an example for those nations by improving the way we treat homosexuals within our borders.  Just because we must (currently) endure the evils of OPEC doesn’t mean we must tolerate the evils of local anti-gay organizations.  Conservatives who agree with this meme are missing a vital distinction: Chic-fil-A is not OPEC.  We need oil, at least for now: we don’t need chicken sandwiches.

Analogy Failure

Gay Marriage and Guns

If you took the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT, in high school, you may remember the analogy questions in the verbal section. An analogy question offers a pair of terms that share some logical relationship, then asks you to identify another pair of terms that share the same relationship. Here’s an example from the Kaplan Test Prep website:

MEDICINE:ILLNESS::

(A) law:anarchy
(B) hunger:thirst
(C) etiquette:discipline
(D) love:treason
(E) stimulant:sensitivity

Medicine is used to prevent illness, in the same way that law is meant to prevent anarchy; hence, answer (A) is the best choice. None of the other choices have the same function/purpose relationship. In any analogy there must be a solid logical connection on both sides. If the logic that binds the analogy is faulty, then the analogy doesn’t work. And if the analogy doesn’t work, you probably shouldn’t use it in a Facebook conversation and then turn it into a meme.

That’s the problem with this meme; the logical connection between Red’s statement and Blue’s statement is weak. Red repeats the gun control mantra: they are not in favor of banning all guns – just the military-grade assault weapons that can kill the most people in the shortest time. Blue responds by arguing that Republicans (which Blue claims not to be) don’t want to ban all marriages, just the ones that ick them out the most. I’m sure Blue is patting himself on the back for his clever argument, but before he feels too proud of himself, Blue should consider that there is a big difference between wanting to prevent the average citizen from purchasing his eighteenth machine gun, and wanting to prevent Adam and Steve from cementing a commitment forged in love.

Now I shouldn’t have to explain the difference, but just in case Blue (or somebody with a similar mindset) wanders across this blog some day – I’ll indulge you. Gay marriage doesn’t kill people. It doesn’t allow one person to kill dozens of people in a matter of seconds. Need proof? Since 2008, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized gay marriage, either by court decision, state legislature, or popular vote. Since 2008, the homicide rate in the United States has declined from 5.4 per 100,000 people to only 4.7. See? Legal gay marriage doesn’t cause murders – it prevents them! (I know: there’s no causal connection between legal gay marriages and decreasing murder rates. It was a joke.)

So when Republicans cast their votes against gay marriage, they’re not really championing a cause that protects the health and safety of United States citizens; they’re just trying to solidify their own biases into law. That’s why the arguments of a gun control proponent do not sound like the arguments of an anti-gay-marriage Republican. Once you scratch the surface, there are vastly different motivations and likely consequences.

It tickles me, though, that Blue – an avowed non-Republican – is improperly using Republican arguments as a weapon to discredit the argument of a gun control proponent. Are Republicans the new Hitler in Internet-based “debates”? There’s an intriguing thought.

Petulance

Mixing Religion and Politics

The author of this meme neglects to provide any specific examples of government intrusion upon his/her religion, so I took to the Internet in search of supporting evidence.

According to Bishop David O’Connell in an NJ.com opinion piece: the “Health and Human Services mandate forcing nearly all private health plans to include coverage for all FDA-approved prescription contraceptive drugs and devices, including abortifacients and surgical sterilization” constitutes an attack on the liberties of religious objectors. Yet Rev. O’Connell acknowledges in the next paragraph that President Obama extended an exemption to those same objectors, so that their organizations would not be required to cover the hated drugs and procedures, but it’s still not good enough. Apparently, Rev. O’Connell is incensed that the government allows anybody to make choices with which he personally disagrees. The government’s willingness to facilitate differing viewpoints must certainly be a sign of its gradual erosion of religious liberties, right?

But that’s just one person’s opinion. Are there others who think the government’s will is blocking their spiritual path? Oh, you bet.

Paul Roy wrote in The Guardian Liberty Voice that the recent Supreme Court case of Town of Greece v. Galloway was a classic example of religion under attack. The case was passed up from a lower court which had declared that the town of Greece, New York, could not open its legislative sessions with a (predominantly Christian) prayer. Although the case had not been decided when Roy wrote his piece, the SCOTUS eventually voted 5-4 that the town could permit volunteer chaplains to issue a prayer. Naturally, the religious right was ecstatic – they hailed it as a victory for religious liberties – but that hasn’t stopped them from grousing about government intrusion in other arenas.

Erik Stanley writes in speakupmovement.org – a website dedicated to “protecting and promoting” the rights of churches – that Washington state’s acceptance of same-sex marriages poses a threat to religious freedoms. Although the law does not require religious officials to solemnize any particular wedding, according to Stanley, wording in the bill (in Section 7 (PDF)) would require that if any church rents its facilities to non-member heterosexual couples for the purpose of getting hitched, it would be required to rent its facilities to same-sex couples.

While that may sound awfully intrusive – particularly if you’re a religious conservative – keep in mind that an open rental policy exposes the church to a lot of people with whom the church may not agree: atheists, pro-choicers, etc. When you open your doors to the public, you always take that risk. The solution is simple: either accept that your facilities will occasionally be rented for purposes with which you don’t agree, or don’t rent to non-members. Problem solved.

So is the government intruding upon our religious rights? In each of these cases, some layer of the government was trying to make our nation more inclusive, and in each case religious conservatives fought back vociferously. To the maker of this meme: it seems to me that the government isn’t intruding upon your religion. The people are asking you not to impose your religious beliefs upon others, and you are perceiving that as an intrusion. What does that say about your religion; or more directly, what does that say about you?

Pot Puffin

Pot Puffin

I can see why a puffin wouldn’t be concerned about legalizing gay marriage or pot, but I wonder what issues he thinks are more pressing. Maybe he thinks the United States should focus its attention and resources on expanding fish populations in the Arctic. Do puffins lobby?

Anyway…least important? I beg to differ, utterly transparent conservative meme maker. Let’s start with cannabis; as I’ve mentioned before, I cannot think of any good reasons why weed should be illegal, particularly if alcohol and tobacco aren’t. Why is the legalization of pot a pressing issue? Because tens of thousands of people are being sent to prison for nothing more than a few grams. Furthermore, black people are far more likely than white people to be jailed for cannabis-related “offenses”, despite the fact that black people and white people use pot with about the same frequency, or so says Dylan Matthews in the Washington Post’s Wonkblog. If we cannot come up with legitimate data-supported reasons why cannabis should be illegal, then draft laws that affect everyone equally (and in my opinion, we cannot), then perhaps it’s time to rethink our position.

Now, let’s talk about gay marriage and why it’s such an important issue, worthy of our consideration. Like it or not, Mr Insensitive Puffin, gay people are human too (just like gay puffins are puffins, I guess). Our nation was built on the notion that all people, gay or straight, black or white, man or woman, were created equal. (Cue American flag waving in the background.) We’ve fought wars about this, for crying out loud. If we’re going to claim to be a nation that values life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then we cannot use our religious convictions as an excuse to strip people of the rights we take for granted, like the right to marry whom we choose. We need to ensure that all people can enjoy the right to get hitched, or else we’ve fallen short of our most basic goal. In that case, there’s no point in pursuing the issues you consider to be more important (presumably, determining whether President Obama is a US citizen or not).

Look, Mr Conservative Puffin, your motives are obvious. You increasingly find yourself swimming against the tide of public opinion, so you wish to switch oceans (and I think my metaphor got waterlogged). But it doesn’t work that way. Conservative puffins have spent years blathering on about the dangers inherent in legalizing pot, gay marriage, and about a dozen other things that don’t mesh with their idea of traditional American values. When the world changes without you, you cannot simply claim that these issues are no longer important. They’re important now more than ever; you’ve made sure of that. Now is the time to address them.