Life in the Box: The Faces in the Meme
Recently I’ve uncovered an uncomfortable truth about myself, that I’m incredibly influenced by who says something, almost more than what is said. For instance, if it comes out of the mouth of a Republican Presidential candidate, it’s probably a lie or it’s probably unsubstantiated, or it’s probably just mean-spirited. Or, is it?
As much as I disbelieve the Republicans, I tend to embrace and believe the Democrats. And that’s odd, since I don’t really think Hillary is all that concerned with honesty. I believe she’d lie pretty convincingly about almost anything. The difference is, I believe Hillary is on the side of “good for everyone.” In other words, she believes that there are good reasons to lie if the lies help shape good public policy. Or if the lies protect our nation from outside enemies. Diplomatic lies are fine with me.
My disbelief of Republicans is deep and heart-felt. I think anyone who shuts down the government for no good reason has a hell of a nerve saying they are worried about the national debt. That shutdown was an incredible waste of money. There is no way anyone who voted for that shutdown can convince me they are taking their job as a leader seriously. They are not interested in the good of this country. And, I could go on and on…
In case you don’t recognize the picture, it’s a bunch of men who’ve been on a cable television series (Duck Dynasty) apparently quite popular, who have become politicized because one of them made some polarizing statements about African Americans and gays. Their show was cancelled for a while, but now they represent social conservatives, I guess. I’m not a fan of these guys, and I don’t pay much attention to them. But, since someone I like posted it, I wanted to respond to it in a meaningful way.
First, I thought I’d un-twist the twisted logic of what the meme says: “As Americans, we should have the freedom to pray without fear of offending others.”
1. The people who are pictured in this statement are rather well known for saying mean things. I don’t think they are afraid of offending others.
2. As Americans says that in this country we are different. Can this mean that people in other countries don’t have the freedom to pray without offending others? I’d have to agree, some countries have official religions, some persecute and kill people whose religions they don’t tolerate. So, as a flat statement, Americans do have the freedom to pray without fear of getting killed by the government. They only have to be afraid if a lone gunman decides to go on a rampage. However, I don’t think there’s anything in the Constitution that protects us from offending others by praying.
3. Freedom to pray without offending others. Personally, I don’t like to pray in public, and will only pray with others when I’m asked to, or in other words, if some situation calls for it. If someone wants to pray in a social circle that’s non-religious, I might be curious about their need to do so out loud. If some religious leader is praying in a church service, like a funeral or wedding, I’ve gone to that presentation knowingly, and I can accept that this is their way of doing things. As a non-fundamentalist, I’ve certainly heard enough of their way of thinking to last a lifetime. I’ve never, ever, enjoyed being preached at or yelled at, and have always been uncomfortable around people who feel they need to push their beliefs about God into my face. That has always been offensive to me. It’s one thing for people to pray. It’s totally another thing for them to feel that there’s something wrong with me (that they need to fix) if I get offended by their insistence that they have the one and only truth and that I damn well better sit and take it.
4. Tone or unspoken inference: Angry faces and finger-pointing in the picture says to me that these guys are mad. What are they mad about? Do they think that, once upon a time, people in America could pray without offending others? That’s a fallacy. Maybe there was a time when Christians could believe that they were not offending others. That time is past. We are no longer naïve enough to believe that Christianity is the only religion in America. We may grieve that loss of pretense, but maturity can be a good thing.
I think the meme is basically a statement of anger about having to be considerate of others. Some people are tired of political correctness. Of having to watch what you say in case you might offend someone. So, they’re angry that other people aren’t more understanding of inconsiderate people?
Okay, so that’s too much to put into a Facebook comment. Instead, I decided to see if the statement had a different meaning to me if posted with different pictures. Here is the meme with a bunch of Democrats praying in what appears to be a church pew.
Here it is with a picture of American soldiers praying in a Muslim mosque.
And here it is with an American Indian.
I have to admit, the picture does change the meaning for me—a lot! With the Clintons and Gores in the Methodist or Presbyterian pews, I assume the message is about not having to be a fundamentalist to have your prayers be honored. Wow, I was surprised how much differently I feel about the meme’s statement when “said” by people I admire! That’s crazy!
With the soldiers, it’s a statement that you can be a brave and honorable American and a Muslim, and that while many people assume all Americans are Christians, they would be mistaken. And, they should not be offended by seeing Muslims praying together. That photo makes the entire meaning different, and much more palatable to me.
And with the Native American, I’m sure I could think of another meaning for the meme’s sentiment, like how the original Americans could pray out in the open. But, it doesn’t really make me angry or offended, so I’m not sure that picture would inspire me much.
I didn’t hear back from my friend after I posted my fixed up memes. I know her son is a religious type, and maybe she has some life experiences that make her angry about political and religious “correctness.” But I did learn a bit about myself. Maybe all those years in television has trained me to look not just at the message, but also the messenger. Maybe I justify what “my people” say and ignore what “those people” say to an extreme. And I might not have all the Truth with a capital “T” in my own snap judgements. Gotta take a humble pill on that one!
Nancy Heather Brown is a retired, Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, and editing for a span of four decades. Today, she enjoys learning new things and reflecting upon the creative process both inside and outside the box.