Bernie on the Moon
What does the Bernie Sanders meme tell us about how our imagination took flight after four years of Trumpian nightmares?
You’ve seen them. You might be sick of them.
As soon as I’m certain that I’m laughed-out another one pops out and I’m screaming like a rhesus monkey, tumbling back down the Bernie rabbit hole—again—but upside down.
Say it again. And again.
On the biggest day of Joe Biden’s life, it’s a throwaway photo of Bernie Sanders sitting in a shoddy fold-out chair (and dressed like he’s just come from an emergency septic system pumping) that completely dominates the imagination of the Interweb.
As someone who comes from a family that reveled in the humor of repetition, I recognize the meme’s cathartic power.
For me, as a kid, it went like this:
Should my parents—especially my mother and grandmother—see or hear something out of the unusual they would instantly claim the peculiarity and flip it into something absurd.
This usually always was some comment or phrase they’d overhear, spoken by someone outside of the family (especially if that person had an unusual patois).
They would then repeat the phrase to each other, throughout the day, over and over, triggering laughter with each retelling.
This would often escalate into hysteria.
And then they’d start it up again the next day. Same joke, new day, more laughs.
My brothers and I thought they were nuts. But eventually, we’d start laughing too. Because of the repetition. (And no my family wasn’t racist, dear concerned woke person).
Over time, the motto would pass into and become preserved within the storehouse of legendary family moments (or what I called The Greatest Hits). 50 years later I can still recall (and repeat) many of them.
I’m sure your family has done the same. At least I hope so.
The Mercurial madcap
The non-stop repetition and perseverance (and endless mutation) of the Bernie meme coincided with—what for me was—the collective sigh of relief that accompanied our escape from Trump’s White House of horrors.
True, the pomp and ceremony of the inauguration was a stately and elegant reassertion of order and beauty back into the patina of American tradition. IOW there weren’t any images of ‘American caranage’ evoked—as Trump graced us with during his 2017 inaugural speech.
But still, all of Biden’s stateliness and dignity wasn’t enough to counteract and discharge the vestigial writhing still balled up in the American craw.
Only the madcap and ridiculous would do. And Sanders proved the perfect Mercurial foil to help us finally cut loose.
It’s too bad we don’t have Sander’s birth time, as I’d love to see how his chart’s midheaven was touched off on Inauguration Day.
That highpoint in the horoscope is like a throne we sit in (even a cheap folding one) when we command a place within the collective imagination.
We do this by demonstrating what we ourselves value most about ourselves and how we might share that with the world; our contribution to life.
For Sanders, it was his sheer utilitarianism (he’s a true blue Virgo; ruled by Mercury) in contrast to all of the high sartorial moments tracked by the media for those curious to know ‘who was wearing whom’.
He told the press: “In Vermont, we dress, we know something about the cold ... And we're not so concerned about good fashion. We just want to keep warm. And that's what I did.”
Well, yes. And no.
“I was just sitting there trying to keep warm, trying to pay attention to what was going on,” he added.
For me, the focus wasn’t on his fabulous oversized mittens or his disheveled Lands End ensemble. Or scuffed dress shoes.
It was the 99 cents smushed-up Walgreens face mask that had me howling. Of all the components of his now-legendary tableau, it’s the face mask that says: “I really don’t give a fuck.”
And we needed that ‘fuck’ on Inauguration Day 2021.
All hail the meme!