Sermons Against Memes and Guns

All this talk about guns is getting to me.

We’ve all, I’m sure, been bombarded in our news feeds and Twitter worlds with memes that hastily point out the bad logic of NRA reps or the naivete of liberals.  I got this one in my news feed this morning:


The meme is a response to a comment made by a Colorado Representative, Democrat Joe Salazar, about recent gun control measures passed in his state that include a law making college campuses gun-free zones.  He argued that the possibility of rape should not justify a woman’s right to carry a handgun in her purse.  He added, “It’s why we have call boxes; it’s why we have safe zones; it’s why we have whistles.”

I guess the creator of the meme is making an argument that whistles don’t prevent rape as well as guns. It’s an argument about as emotionally mature as an Aerosmith song.  Still, I found myself unable to ignore it or tsk-tsk my way out of thinking about the implications of such a meme and people’s willingness to pass it around as a solid argument.

Let me use a real rhetorical device here (as opposed to a meme) and appeal to my own authority.

I am a woman.

I am not naive.

I am a woman who feels endangered.   I am a survivor of sexual assault.  If I go through a list in my head of my 10 closest female friends, at least 6 of them have survived rape or sexual abuse, in some cases severe abuse. Those numbers match up with national statistics.

I am a woman who also feels rage more often that I care to admit.   Last week I even had a dream that I shot someone.  A pregnant woman.  In her stomach.  When I woke up I didn’t feel guilty or horrified.  I felt relieved.  Then I went about my day, a day that included me writing a joyful letter to a pregnant friend expressing my sincere, genuine happiness about her new baby.

I am a woman who understands the all-too-human instinct toward violence, revenge, anger.  My psyche  is capable of violence too.

I am a woman who knows the difference between dreams and reality.

I do not want to carry a gun in my purse.  I do not want guns anywhere near my home, my school, my family, or my person.

Let me say that again: I do not want to carry a gun in my purse.  Or mace.  Or a whistle.

I want to live in a world where women are safe.

I want to live in a world where my option isn’t whistle or gun, victim or perpetrator, passive resistor or co-conspirator to a culture that accepts violence as its modus operandi.

I want to live in a world where people have the intelligence to recognize that rape and gun violence stem from the same sickness, and that arming women against male violence doesn’t solve male violence so much as quietly assent to its existence.

I don’t want to see your stupid memes, because they are violent too.  Memes are a huge part of the problem here.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the occasional purely humorous meme, those aimed at nobody.   But politicized memes are a bastardized form of rhetoric and logic, only persuasive in the basest sense, and they lend themselves to all kinds of fallacious reasoning.  Politics or activism on the cheap, memes oversimplify and are the psychosocial equivalent of poking someone in the ribs again and again and again or flexing ones own muscles in the mirror.  Posting a meme onto your Facebook page is a passive, pathetic attempt at real dialogue, a convenient way to avoid dealing with complexity and gray area, a great way to feel safe inside your own smugness.  Never mind other people’s safety.

I want to live in a world where we arm women and men with the weapons of love, gentleness, and respect.

As Galatians 5:22 reminds us, ” The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.”

Or, wait.  Let me get a woman here.  Bell Hooks says it best:

“It is not easy for males, young or old, to reject the codes of patriarchal masculinity. Men who choose against violence are simultaneously choosing against patriarchy, wherther they can articulate that choice or not….

Ultimately, the men who choose agaisnt violence, against death, do so because they want to live fully and well, because they want to know love. These men who are true heroes.”