I haven’t done a Silly Meme Saturday entry in a while; perhaps because I now follow fewer people who post silly memes. But I still see them occasionally.
The meme at right, which I’ve now seen in several different versions, uses a photo of Kentucky Court Clerk Kim Davis. At first, the words typed on the image sound like a conservative soundbite about NFL players protesting police brutality and systemic racism, but then the sentence ends with a twist.
The power of the meme rests on the assumption that viewers are familiar with both (1) Kim Davis and her refusal to issue marriage licenses, and (2) the conservative trope that “NFL players should stand for the anthem because they’re employees”. The idea is to point out the hypocrisy of conservatives who heartily supported Ms. Davis’ “civil disobedience” but now insist NFL players should just “do their jobs” and “protest on their own time”.
My biggest problem with the meme’s message is that it won’t change the mind of any conservative who holds both those positions, because they don’t see them as dissonant. They believe that Ms. Davis was standing up against “persecution” of her religious beliefs, much like the legendary young Hebrews Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood up to Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, who threw them into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow to a statue he’d made. And they believe the NFL players are being disrespectful to the U.S. flag for no good reason at all — perhaps because they’re “thugs”. So the meme’s only purpose then is to reassure liberals that yes, conservatives are hypocrites, and yes, we were right to criticize Kim Davis and we should probably laugh at her again.
But the whole point of the meme is falsified because its message rests on a false equivalency — an incorrect conclusion that the two situations are somehow similar. The only similarities between the Davis debacle and the NFL players kneeling is that people involved in both are actually “employees”. Let’s look at the differences:
1. Davis was a public servant — employed by a government body at the behest of voters; NFL players are employed by corporations (their respective teams). There have long been differences between public and private sector jobs.
2. Davis’ actions (refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples) directly discriminated against a protected class of people. NFL players’ actions (kneeling or sitting during the pre-game National Anthem) affect no one but themselves.
3. Davis’ actions prevented a group of citizens from accessing a government service they’re entitled to. Kneeling NFL players limited nothing to anyone.
4. Davis’ actions directly contradicted her own job description, which is to provide a government service to citizens. NFL players’ actions were irrelevant to their job description (which is to play football).
5. Davis claimed her actions were religiously motivated, despite zero religions actually saying that (that entry has been in place for three years; no one has been able to name a single religion with a doctrine or rule prohibiting baking cakes for same-sex couples, issuing government marriage licenses to same-sex couples, or otherwise discriminating against them). So she was lying. NFL players notably are not claiming a religious motivation, and in fact didn’t need to give a reason at all, because what they are doing is not illegal.
6. Davis’ entire point was negated by her own lifestyle (her religion condemns her own multiple marriages, as well as homosexuality). NFL players’ points were reinforced by the reaction to their silent protest.