Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River

By Katie East

America has been inundated with buckets of ice water for the past few weeks. What started as a trend to help promote ALS awareness has become a national phenomenon involving past presidents and rock stars. Now, social media is seeing a backlash of people who are sick of the movement or even have something against it. To these people I say: shut up.

You’ve probably heard everyone and their mother’s opinion on the ice bucket challenge. Here’s why mine matters: I have been volunteering and donating to the ALS Association for five years. I’ve hosted fundraisers, walked with my family in the Baton Rouge walk and recruited friends to walk with me in New York City too. My family and I have personally raised nearly $10,000; it’s something that is very near and dear to us.

What we’ve spent years trying to accomplish happened in minutes on the Internet. And somehow, people are pissed about it. Look, I understand getting annoyed with trends; I hated middle school too. But what kind of a jackass goes around chastising someone for wearing a “Livestrong” bracelet? No one. So why bitch about such a successful strategy that will help so many deserving people?

Let me take out the specifics to try to be unbiased about this: A non-profit charity comes up with a marketing strategy to raise awareness about a horrible, misunderstood disease. Quickly, the disease becomes a household name. World famous celebrities get in on the cause and the charity raises 20 times the amount of money they did last year in the same amount of time. And yet, some buzzkills takes issue with this.

Your argument is futile, naysayers.

There are two main gripes about the ice bucket challenge. The first is that people are just jumping on a bandwagon without understanding anything about the disease or even caring. Originally, these smarties pointed out that if everyone did the ice bucket challenge then no money would be made. Unfortunately for those mathematicians, the fundraising dollars have proved them wrong.

Sure, I’m certain there are people out there who have done the ice bucket challenge, donated zero dollars and learned nothing about ALS is the process. I think those people are in the minority though. Even still, why discount an entire movement because of a few bad apples?

Even those rare people who gained nothing from the ice bucket challenge, at least their awareness of ALS was raised. This is something that is so important for ALS, a relatively unknown disease. You don’t hear anyone bitching that people are wearing pink every October.

“What are football players wearing pink for anymore? What are they, gay? Or is there really someone in this country who’s not ‘aware’ of breast cancer,” said no one ever.

The only other way to raise awareness of ALS is when a celebrity or athlete is diagnosed, which no one would ever wish for. Unfortunately, Lou Gehrig and Stephen Hawkins have ended up more as one-liners than heroic examples.

ALS is too often the butt of a joke because people don’t really understand it. As a comedian, I have heard too many punch lines that end in ALS. It’s a disease people don’t understand and people are too ready to make jokes about. I’m a firm believer that

anything can be funny if the payoff is worth the offense; with ALS, it never is.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a disease that slowly attacks your brain, spinal cord, and muscles, which causes paralysis. Eventually, you can’t move, breathe or speak. Mentally, you can feel and understand everything the whole time. It’s a guaranteed, miserable death sentence. Now, make that funny, bitch. I dare you.

Moving on, the second complaint of the ice bucket challenge that cynics are quick to point out is that people are wasting water. Californian hippies who never bathe, shower or flush anything that isn’t a giant poop: plead your case. Everyone else: shut up.

Yes, there are countries that don’t have enough clean drinking water to sustain their citizens. That’s terrible. To them, I bet this ice bucket challenge seems ridiculous. So, I suggest don’t challenge anyone in those countries. It would be rude.

Personally, I haven’t done the ice bucket challenge, though I would if someone challenged me to. Will I be upset if no one does? No. I’ll just continue to fight to raise awareness and donate to this worthy cause. Until then, I’ll scroll past all the water-dumping videos if I’m not in the mood. You should do the same, America. Or shut up.

 

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