The “still does their job” meme. I’m not okay with it.
I get it. It’s funny, it’s an excuse to post pictures of Dana Scully and that knight from Monty Python with no arms. I am 100% in favour of more Dana Scully, everywhere, forever.
But- I hate to say this- I think that this meme is fundamentally misguided and incredibly harmful. Have we no better way to argue with Kim Davis bar telling her that she should do her job? That she should sit down, shut up, and do what we pay her to do?
Would we be saying this if Davis’s views were different?
I do think that Kim Davis needs to either do her job or step down and let someone else do it. However, I *don’t* agree that it’s always as simple as that.
Your job is not always the right thing to do. We know this. “Just following orders” is never an acceptable excuse to do something immoral. We need peaceful ways to make our points and fight for our beliefs. Sometimes, putting down our tools and refusing to perform part or all of our work is one of them.
Let me tell you a story.
You see, back in the 1980s a group of ordinary workers helped to change how our country behaved toward a profound wrong. Workers from Dunnes Stores (an Irish supermarket chain) went on strike for the right to not handle produce from apartheid South Africa. One cashier- Mary Manning- refused to check South African fruit through her till. When she was suspended, nine of her colleagues walked out with her. Their strike lasted two years and nine months. I’m the end, they won more than they could have hoped for- Ireland banned the sale of South African goods until the end of apartheid.
History is filled with people who made the world better by refusing to do their jobs. I am proud to be from the same nation as Mary Manning.
Kim Davis should do her job- there’s no doubt about that. Her reasons for refusing to do her own job are a world away from the Dunnes Stores strikers. They fought in solidarity with people who had their human rights denied. Davis fights for the privilege of denying rights to others.
But while their motives are completely different, Davis and the Dunnes Stores strikers’ tactics are remarkably similar. And they’re the same as have been used by thousands of people the world over for all kinds of purposes.
I’d love to live in a world where people only fought for good causes. It would be a far simpler place. We don’t live in that world.
The fact is: we can’t object to the other side’s methods, when they are the very same ones that we use ourselves. I can’t celebrate the Dunnes workers tactics while condemning Kim Davis’.
If we want our objection to Davis to have teeth- and if we don’t want those teeth to bite us in the ass the next time we strike or boycott- we have to focus it where it belongs. On the odiousness of anyone denying others their civil rights.
We need to dismantle Davis’s claims of persecution brick by brick. We must make it crystal clear that our rights apply to our selves, and that LGBTQ peoples’ right to equal treatment under the law does not impact on her equal right to see our relationships as immoral if she chooses.
Because let’s be clear: we know that we’re going to win this one, at least in this part of the world. The Davises of the world are losing, because their ideology crumbles before our lives and our stories. Our most powerful tool is our lives, and in sharing them we wield it well. Kim Davis will lose.
But she must not lose her right to protest along with her fight. We have to find a way to ensure that all couples in Kentucky can access marriage, regardless of gender. But if we can’t do that without respecting the right to put down your tools in protest? We’ll have lost something far further-reaching than this. And in years to come, when the world’s next Mary Manning walks away from her desk or her till, we’ll regret what we did.
Oh, and by the way?
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