Look, being a cynical jerk is kind of my thing. It drives a lot of my comedy, and makes me the lovable curmudgeon I am.
But, I am actually getting a little tired of the overwhelming need for us all to be cynical twits all the time.
This past week, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases related to gay marriage. As a sign of support for marriage equality, a lot of people changed their social media avatars to a red background with an equal sign on it.
It flooded Facebook, and likely irritated people who believe gay marriage should not be legal for a variety of reasons, primarily religious. I have no intention here of arguing with those reasons or of taking issue with people’s belief. Nor am I taking a political position in this post.
What I do take issue with is the immediate wave of posts, memes and “clever” commentary on how these symbols wouldn’t impact the ruling of the Court. The point being, I guess, that a show of support changes nothing and is a waste of time. And also, I know how to make a meme.
My response to this? Shut up.
We all know that icons alone don’t change the law of the land just as we know that wearing a pink ribbon isn’t going to cure breast cancer. At least not directly, and that is the entire point.
A show of support is really just that. It’s providing support to people you want to make feel better or you want to help. The ribbons don’t cure the disease, but they make victims of the disease feel a little better and help create public dialogue. And maybe that leads to more donations. And maybe that ultimately leads to a cure.
It’s the same deal with the social media icons. No, Justice Scalia is not going to cruise through Facebook, observe the sea of red, and suddenly decide he needs to be onboard with gay marriage. What it does is get a discussion going that a few years ago would have been utterly dismissed. And it shows gay people that a lot of folks support their rights to be treated like people.
So, yeah, the ribbons and the icons and the words of support may do little more in the immediate future than keep a dialogue going. But that’s worth something.
And, the truth is, if even a few people feel better because they see public support, then such a show of support has value.
If seeing a lot of pink ribbons can give a cancer patient or family member a little hope or smile, then I’m okay with that. If a social media icon campaign can show a group of people that have been made fun of and marginalized that a lot of us think they deserve better, then it’s accomplished something.
Eventually, we hope cures to disease and social ills come. And maybe the ongoing discussion that these symbols are a part of play some part in that.
But for now, letting some people feel better is not such a bad thing.
Cynicism for cynicism’s sake on issues that impact people’s lives in a deep and significant way is becoming tiresome. Also, none of those negative memes are funny anyway. So there’s that.