Fixing a Few Memes

I came across some memes and other images in the past day or so that looked like they needed some fixing. I just thought I’d share.

First, we have a meme from a Facebook page called “The Advocates for Self-Government” (h/t Jason):

"Up until 1913 Americans kept all of their earnings. Despite this, America still had schools, roads, colleges, vast railroads, subways, and an army & navy. Tell me again why people need to be extorted?"

It shows a scene from a New York City street, circa 1913*. The text offers a pretty standard revisionist history of the United States prior to the Sixteenth Amendment, suggesting that the U.S. was doing just fine without federal income tax. Then, of course, it throws in the “taxation = theft” bit, which I’m not even going to bother refuting here because the people who make that argument are incapable of feeling intellectual shame.

It’s a nice idea, but it’s b.s. Life in the U.S. in 1913 wasn’t all that great. (Five years later, it would get much, much worse for a bit.) The great wealth of the U.S. wasn’t just built on hard work, gumption, and keeping all one’s income. Here’s my revised meme:

"Up until 1913, most Americans kept all of their earnings. Except for Native Americans. The government literally took everything they had, and built schools, roads, colleges, vast railroads, and subways on top of it. Mostly using cheap immigrant labor largely deemed expendable. Then there were the slaves. Don't even get me started on them. So tell me again why you're whining about your tax bill, you little turd?"

This one is a bit more historically accurate. And a bit more honest, I dare say.

Next, we have a two-panel comic from a Facebook page called “Right Behind You” (h/t Chris), with the added comment “Instill actual values into the future”:

"If you do not study..."

The two panels both depict two pairs of people, each consisting of a (presumably) mother and a child, looking at a man sweeping the street. One parent says that if her child doesn’t study, he will become a street sweeper. In the next panels, the other parent tells her child that if she studies, she can make the world a better place for the street sweeper.

Both panels place the children in a superior position to the street sweeper, treating him as either someone whose fate is to be avoided, or someone who needs to be saved in some sense. Neither treats him as anything other than a means to teach the children a lesson about their own lives.

Certainly, neither panel treats the man as a human being worthy of respect in his own right, who works a dangerous but important job keeping city streets clean. I decided to spruce the comic up a bit:

"Worthy of respect and decency"

That strikes me as a better lesson.

Now, then, go ye forth and make better memes and comics. I’m watching you…..

* Whoever made this meme got the date right—this picture really is from 1913—but they didn’t credit the original picture. It appears to be the work of George Grantham Bain, an early photojournalist whose work is now collected in the Library of Congress. The picture appears to be in the public domain, but giving credit is still a nice thing to do.


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