Re-posted this little visual gag from author Shanna Germain earlier today on my Facebook wall, and sparked a minor debate about the ethics of tagging a wall like this to alter the intended slogan painted by the owner of the house.
An acquaintance of mine in Tucson says that he actually lives near the real life site of this image. This wall is actually a home, owned by a Middle Eastern man, who also owns other buildings in the neighborhood and uses them as billboards for his religious views. My acquaintance feels that the original author of the slogan is an injured party here…persecuted for his religious beliefs by obnoxious white frat boys who feel entitled to harass minorities.
Personally, I think that calling a light-hearted riposte like this “persecution” is beyond absurd. But this comment brought out one or two other comments from people who felt that a graffito like this was an unacceptable violation of the author’s property rights, and right to an opinion. It was compared to defacing or damaging a sign showing support for a political candidate, or a bumper sticker expressing support for women’s rights. How dare these pranksters lay their filthy spray paint on his wall! This man has the right to say whatever he wants to there! His bold declaration of his religious belief is a Constitutionally protected right and blah blah blah deargodskillmenow.
The problem with this reasoning is simple, really. This wall exists in the real world. The real world is not Facebook. If I think you’re crazy on Facebook, and that the contents of your Wall are consistently offensive and I don’t want them in my face, I can just Unfriend or Block you and voila–you are out of my face. I can easily and painlessly exclude your message from my life, my community, and my mental airwaves.
But when you insist on blazoning your giant slogans on a wall in reality, your strident message cannot be blocked. Your loudly, aggressively stated views cannot be removed from my neighborhood. And if I find the content of your Wall consistently offensive, and I am sick of having your views in my face…my options for a response are limited. I can either silently submit to you shouting at me…or I can find some non-violent way to resist.
In cases like this…I must uphold the right to non-violent resistance. There is no evidence that the tagger of this wall would have done anything to deface this property if the author had not decided to use it as a pulpit. If anything, the tagger is simply making this wall a conversation, rather than allowing himself or herself to be brow-beaten.
People who think that the community does not respond to other unpopular views expressed in public spaces are kidding themselves. There are plenty of things that I can erect on my front lawn which my neighbors can clearly see are offensive to others, and should be torn down or toppled. A burning cross is offensive even if it’s on my property. So is a big swastika or a desecrated statue of the Virgin Mary–no matter how passionate and sincere I am in my Satanism.
Personally, I find that the people who are most passionately wounded on behalf of the author of this slogan are simply those who consider its message non-threatening and inoffensive. And I am afraid that I cannot join them in this view.
You see, I consider the phrase “Submission to God” a dire and potent threat to my human rights, both as a woman and as a secular humanist. There is no God who demands submission, in the past, present or future, who is not a murdering psychopath in my estimation. And I would further add that there is no God who demands submission, who does not demand it disproportionately and brutally from women ten times more than men.
Until this situation changes in some way, I personally believe that the majority of the human race will find far greater happiness and longevity in offering their reverence to Godzilla.
And may the peace and mercy of Godzilla be with all those who disagree.