No sooner, it would seem, does a silly fad materialize that combines hot-weather high jinks, people’s plangent yearning to plaster photos and videos of themselves on social media, and charitable contributions to a worthy cause -- I’m talking about the Ice Bucket Challenge -- than some long-faced progressives come along to throw cold ice onto it.
Even the spectacle of progressive hate-object George W. Bush getting doused over the head by former First Lady Laura Bush among the latest in a laundry list of well-known people to undergo the ice-bucket treatment hasn’t mollified the joyless pundits resolved to leach all the pleasure out of a hot summer afternoon.
Objections to the Ice Bucket Challenge -- in which people dare each other to endure having ice water poured over their heads, or, alternatively, donate $100 to combat the neurodegenerative disorder ALS (or some do the challenge and write a check) -- fall into the following categories:
1. The Ice Bucket Challenge wastes water -- and there’s a drought on in California.
“Twitter's caught on to this with the #droughtshaming hashtag, which used to just target those leaving their lawn sprinklers on and the like and have since been targeting the Ice Bucket Challenge participants….
“ ‘Fresh water is one of our nation's most precious resources,’ Jim Gulliford, executive director of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, told The Wire in an email interview. ‘It is a resource that should never be undervalued or wasted. This becomes even more important when areas of our country are suffering from drought.’ ”
Well, maybe. How much water does a bucket of ice contain? Three gallons? That’s about two flushes of a low-flow toilet. And even hard-core environmentalists concede that the 5 million gallons of water that have supposedly been wasted over the past three weeks in the challenge is a drop in the bucket, so to speak, compared with the 37.5 billion gallons of water that American households use every day, as Li points out.
2. Ice costs money -- money that could be better spent by donating it directly to the ALS Assn.
“Some of the people issuing the challenges have tweaked the rules by asking people to contribute $10 even if they do soak themselves. Even so, a lot of the participants are probably spending more money on bagged ice than on ALS research.”
Yup, a 10-pound bag of ice costs between $1 and $3.
3. The Ice Bucket Challenge trivializes and makes light of a ghastly and so far incurable condition, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
“I lost one of my best friends to this evil thing. I saw the deterioration of the body, the continuing sharpness of the mind and the total dissolution of hope. His name was John Rountree, and he has been gone for almost three years now. He was 65. …
“If, at this time next year, or a few years down the line, there is an ALS breakthrough and it is traceable, even minutely, to the money raised through this Internet furor, I will write 17 columns praising the human spirit and its current technological driver.
“But at the moment, pouring water on our heads, or each other's, seems a slightly distasteful disconnect to the reality of ALS.”
Everything that Dwyre says about the horror of dying of ALS is true. But so is the horror of dying of anything else. A friend of mine (and many others), the L.A. writer Catherine Seipp, died at age 49 in 2007 after battling lung cancer for about three years, even though she’d never smoked a cigarette in her life. I wish someone would have an Ice Bucket Challenge for the American Lung Assn.
4. People have fun with the Ice Bucket Challenge -- and we can’t have that.
Back to Will Oremus of Slate:
“As for ‘raising awareness,’ few of the videos I’ve seen contain any substantive information about the disease, why the money is needed, or how it will be used. More than anything else, the ice bucket videos feel like an exercise in raising awareness of one’s own zaniness, altruism, and/or attractiveness in a wet T-shirt.”
Because people should never, ever be allowed to have a good time while doing something good for somebody else. There should be a ban on charity balls, raffles, school bake sales (those cupcakes are pretty tasty), and Santa sack races. Just write a check and grimace.
As for me, it’s 91 here in Washington, D.C., as I write, with humidity to match. Please, somebody, issue me an Ice Bucket Challenge.
Charlotte Allen writes frequently about feminism, politics and religion. Follow her on Twitter @MeanCharlotte.
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