New York Times critic Amanda Hess was given a rare slot on her paper’s front page to opine sign above, which was apparently the beginning of the the viral “Announce to your neighbors that you’re a smug, simple-minded idiot” epidemic. I did not know that! Ethics Alarms has had several posts about similar signs, notably this one, but I did not realize that I had missed Patient Zero. I was, in fact, preparing to write another post on this topic, because one sign resembling the progenitor of obnoxious yard signs just turned up at a house across the street from me. Its only variation from the classic is “Water is Life” at the bottom: maybe Aquaman lives in that house. I have vowed, if I ever have an encounter with the resident there, to present a series of questions that I guarantee will only evoke “Huminahuminahumina...” in response.
Hess’s analysis by turns informs readers that the sign has “curious power” (to make me detest the homeowner?); that the mottoes are “progressive maxims” (so progressives really are that facile and shallow!), that “Donald Trump is out of office…But nevertheless, this sign has persisted” (Oh! It’s all Trump’s fault!), that the sign is “directed at the adults in the room, reminding them of their own mission” (Really? Open borders? Man-boy love? Anti-white discrimination? Marxism? Why is a sign aimed at adults so naive and childish? ), that it is “the epitome of virtue signaling: an actual sign enumerating the owner’s virtues. There is something refreshing, actually, about the straightforwardness of that.” (There is something refreshing about smug idiots placing signs on their laws that say, “I am a smug idiot”?).
I learned other things from the article:
- The text was the creation of Kristin Garvey, a librarian in Wisconsin, who wrote it out on a piece of cardboard in a post 2016 election freak-out. A friend turned her masterpiece into a professional, if nauseating, yard sign for mass production, and “its message became a mantra among liberals who felt lost in Trump’s America.” This means that they paid no attention to what Trump did: black lives prospered more under Trump than Obama (or Biden); all previous Presidents have taken an oath to enforce immigration laws, which means that those illegally immigrating are illegal immigrants; and Trump opposed neither gay rights nor same sex marriages.
- Mashable called the sign “more bold and memorable than anything the Democratic party has come up with in the last four years.” This is the equivalent of a rationalization that “Democrats could have been worse.”
- Profits from the sign’s sales go to support abortions! Ah. That explains why “Life is Life” didn’t make the cut, along with “The unborn’s rights are human rights.”
What Hess doesn’t do, either because she lacks the guts or because she is a fool, is to point out that the sign is really, really dumb as well as annoying. (This is why my quiz for the homeowner across the street will be so difficult.) To only cover the last item, “Kindness is Everything”: this is ethics ignorance of the first water. Kindness is important and an ethical value, but it hasfar lower priority than integrity, fairness, responsibility and accountability, among others. A society in which kindness over-rules all other considerations would not work; indeed, it wouldn’t even be kind.