Imagine that we're kids in school together, and I start a rumour that you're secretly a dog who's been surgically altered to look like a human being.
"Sam's a dog", I tell everyone. "Sam's not a person."
(For the purposes of this exercise, we'll assume your name is Sam. It can be short for Samuel or Samantha or whatever you like.)
And perhaps you go along with it at first. It's fun. Sure, the doctors trained you to walk upwards. Sure, your age is actually your age times seven. Sure, there's a scar on your lower back (upper butt!) where you used to have a tail, but no, you can't see it.
And perhaps at recess the other kids will tell you to sit, and you sit. The other kids will throw sticks, and you go get them. It's fun.
And then one day at lunch, I take your Reese's peanut butter cup away. "Dogs shouldn't have chocolate", I inform you, with my mouth full. You say nothing.
The next day, I take your Skittles. When you complain that Skittles don't have chocolate in them, I calmly inform you that dogs can't own property, so really, none of your lunch is yours at all.
I sing a little song about it. Sam's a dog. Sam's not a person. The other kids join in.
You slap me in the face. There's a fight.
In the office, the principal asks who started the fight. The story - corroborated by multiple witnesses - is that I took a few pieces of candy from you and sang a silly song, and you hit me first. I go back to class, you're suspended for three days.
As you're leaving, you hear the principal mutter "certainly acts like an animal..."
You start hearing people outside of class - people who don't even go to our school - singing the song I made up. Sam's a dog. Sam's not a person. People are singing it in the streets. A kid you don't know runs up to you and asks if you pee on fire hydrants.
Someone threw a can at you from a moving vehicle. As it drove away, you heard them making barking noises.
People start taking your possessions - little stuff at first. Pens. Paper. Books. Your bike. Your shoes.
Sam's not a person, therefore Sam can't really own property.
Sam's not a person, therefore hitting Sam isn't really assault.
Sam's not a person, therefore if Sam were to be killed, it would be, at most, animal cruelty - not murder.
By the time you get to high school, it's common knowledge all throughout town. Moreover, since you're clearly genetically related to them, your whole family must be dogs too. Your grandfather gets called a "mutt" at the grocery store. Your seven-year-old cousin has his candy stolen by his classmates. The children all sing the song I wrote.
And then your mom dies.
She was walking home with groceries when a group of teenagers surrounded her and started making barking noises, throwing things, snatching at her. She had to abandon the groceries and walk, then jog, then run away. She fell - no one's sure how - and hit her head on a concrete pylon. Multiple times.
You sit in court and look at the teenagers in their best suits. They're doing their best to look innocent and sad. The judge rules your mother's death was her own fault. She shouldn't have been running in an area with concrete pylons. She should have watched where she was going.
As the teenagers celebrate, the judge comments that he shouldn't have to have his time wasted every time a stray animal has an accident.
You start to take action. You spend your own money to make signs, posting them all around town, showing your face, showing that you're a human being. You buy time on the local radio station, and record an ad saying how you ARE a person, and you DO have rights and you CAN own property.
You see one of your signs spraypainted with "SAM'S NOT A PERSON". You tear it down.
You go on TV, showing your clearly human genealogical tree going back eight generations. You show how you don't actually have a scar on your lower back. You submit to a cheek swab, a blood test, it all shows you're 100% human.
You tune in to see the segment, and in the middle of it, there's an ad I've paid for. I talk vaguely about HUMAN rights and HUMAN values over swelling string music. The tune is familiar. You've heard me use it before.
You take me to court.
I argue that my ad doesn't hurt you in any way, and that I have a right to free speech. You spend thousands of your own money on lawyers who argue and fight and appeal their way upwards.
On the twenty-third day of legal proceedings, you come home and someone's spraypainted "S.A.D. S.N.A.P." on your front door. The cops tell you it must just be random graffiti from some punk kids. Y'know, "sad snap". Like "oh snap". Kids say that, right?
You clean your door.
The "SNAP" graffiti is back the next day.
After years of fighting, you get all the way up to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court confirms that you are, indeed, a human being. The Supreme Court confirms that my ad should not be aired any more. There is no penalty to me other than that, and you're out thousands of dollars, but you still celebrate that night like you won the lottery.
Years go by.
It is the law of the land that you are a human being and entitled to all the protections of the law. No one takes your possessions. No one throws things at you. You do, occasionally, get the stinkeye from random people. You do, occasionally, hear my tune hummed just out of the range of your hearing. But you know they can't hurt you. You are, legally, human.
I'm running for mayor.
You find yourself in the audience for one of my speeches. I give a very good speech. I talk about repairing the streets. I talk about cleaning up the trash. I talk about lowering taxes and incentivizing small businesses. I talk about increasing property values.
I see you in the crowd and make eye contact.
I talk about improving the quality of life for all the HUMANS who live in this city.
I casually snap my fingers.
The people around you chuckle a little bit.
You flip me off.
"Why, Sam!", I exclaim, "whatever did I do to merit such hostility from you?"
"It's just a hand gesture, just a little noise. It can't hurt you."
"Kids say 'oh snap!', right? It's cool! I'm a very cool person."
"Lots of songs have snapping in them. I like music. Don't you like music? Or, perhaps, you're allowed to snap along to songs and I'm not, is that the rule?"
"I mean, come on! Why does everything have to be so politically correct? Why do you have such thin skin? Can't you take a joke?"
"You seem to be really getting mad. You're getting a little hot... under the collar."
"Aren't you, Sam?"