It’s amazing how much attention a grumpy looking guy, all bundled up, wearing a goofy pair of wool mittens, can stir up.
He – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont – is popping up everywhere on the Internet. He’s been inserted into photos of movies and TV shows, on practically everyone’s Facebook pages, on top of buildings, at sporting events, at famous landmarks all over the world (including next to Alexandria’s Big Ole).
Bernie was just trying to stay warm during President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. But the image went bonkers on the Net, sparking a meme mania that is still wildly circulating around every corner of the globe.
Thank you, Bernie.
Sure, it’s silly, pointless, way over-the-top, frivolous, trivial and kinda stupid. But it’s what we need right now. At this moment. When tempers over politics, protests and a pandemic reach angry flashpoints in nano-seconds, the world needs a little humor, a breather, an escape, if only for a few seconds.
Seeing Bernie, sitting patiently on the set of the Dating Game, sitting on a couch with the cast of Friends, sitting alone on a New York City Subway, instantly brings a smile, if only for a few seconds.
Seeing Bernie sitting beside Big Bird or cruising in a sports car with Guy Fieri or making a cameo in Forrest Gump, can lighten things up, if only for a few seconds.
Now there are some who may say it’s bad to pick on Bernie. But Bernie, bless his sense of humor, is totally OK with it. In an interview on Late Night with Seth Meyers, a smiling Bernie said he had seen the memes. He also told CNN that he was “overjoyed” that the image could be turned into good use – his home state plans to sell sweatshirts and T-shirts with the meme to raise money for charitable causes such as Meals on Wheels.
Yes, there were much, much more substantive things that took place at the inauguration, including Biden’s call for unity and the historic moment when the nation’s first female, African American and Asian American Vice President Kamala Harris delivered her hope-filled remarks urging Americans to see beyond crises. And, for me, the most emotional part of the ceremony was the inspirational poem delivered by 23-year-old Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb.” (Please take a few minutes to Google it and read it – it’s well worth it, especially the stirring ending: “The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it. If only we're brave enough to be it.”)
Those Inauguration Day moments should stick with us longer than a silly meme. But there’s something wondrous about how Bernie’s unintentional fashion choice that day touched people’s funny bone, sparked creativity and gave us comic relief when we needed it.
It’s often been said that humans are the only animals with a sense of humor. Maybe we need to focus on that commonality instead of always looking for the things that divide us – if only for a few seconds.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.