OPINION: We have been blessed by Bernie and his mittens

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Hailey Stessman
OPINION EDITOR

The many memes created of Bernie Sanders at the inauguration simply shows how influential the internet is for the younger generation. Graphic by Hailey Stessman/The Gateway

Although it has its rough moments, it’s hard to deny that the internet can work wonders. Despite the therapeutic feeling of going to a library and browsing their selection of books for research, in just a few simple clicks on your phone or laptop, you have a world of information at your fingertips. The internet provides us with easy access to news, current trends, and of course, an impressive collection of memes.

Memes, defined as an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture, have become a prominent way of communication for millennials and Gen Z on almost any topic. How a meme is born is a mystery within itself. Everyday during my daily morning Twitter scroll, there is a new meme shared amongst the online community. Then the same thing happens every time: retweet and like the version of the meme I like the most, share the meme with my sister, laugh about it, bring it up throughout the day, confuse my parents, and then move on.

Similar to pop culture and the nature of trends, memes fall out of conversation. Some are considered more mainstream while others are known to be “deep”, including those that surface from “alt Tiktok.”

However, there has been some contention on whether memes and humor should be allowed in the political sphere. During the election season, it was the prime season for memes. (I never thought I would be declaring a time prime for memes, yet here we are). People were able to transfer their anxieties and nervous energy into memes and humor that helped them cope or process the situation at hand. I think there is a general understanding that most of the jokes are a coping mechanism rather than a direct attack or insult. However, you can easily find ones of the latter manner.

But what about memes that arise from politicians for simply being who they are? Is there any harm in that?

Yeah, I’m talking about Bernie.

In his cozy neutral-toned mittens and grey coat, Sen. Bernie Sanders sat by and watched the events of President Joe Biden’s inauguration unfold before him. With his arms and legs crossed, he braced himself against the chilly conditions of the Washington D.C. weather as a light flurry fell on Capitol Hill. While we don’t know the exact thoughts running through his head at that moment, we simply could see a seventy nine-year-old man trying to stay warm in the colder weather.

And within minutes, the internet worked its magic.

Users took the image and edited hundreds of pictures where bundled-up-Bernie was seated in a variety of locations including video game settings, the subway, and even in famous paintings. While I saved my favorite edits, I noticed an interesting pattern. Following the exquisitely edited photos, there was a domino effect where political events and policies were referenced and articles were linked. It was like falling down a rabbit hole; the more I was scrolling through the abundance of memes, the more I was learning.

If this is the only way that the younger generation can get into and comprehend politics, then I’m all for it. Let them create their edits, jokes and posts. It’s important for our culture to understand that this is a language of the next generation. If they want to cater to a larger audience, important figures need to adapt their approach. No matter how weird or confusing it can be, at least it makes sense for the majority of us.

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