What’s With All the Bernie Mitten Memes?

After Trump’s tirades, taunts and tyranny, it feels good to laugh again.

Bernie on the Journey: Tundra landscape

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or are sulking in the sunshine state after a recent demotion, you’ve probably noticed that the Vermont senator has been keeping really good company as of late. We’re talking A-listers and Forest Gump-like historical figures.

Among my favorite situations and stars: In a therapy session with Tony Soprano and Dr. Melfi. Bear-hugging from behind a topless Janet Jackson as pictured on the cover of Rolling Stone. Astride the motorcycle on the album cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Off to one side as the Sex and the City cast — everyone except for Kim Cattrall, that is — yuks it up over Cosmopolitans. Get it?

I, too, joined in on the fun. Early on a Saturday morning three days after the inauguration, I posted a series of images of Bernie strategically placed within the nine landscapes of the soul, photographs featured in a book of inspiring passages, quotations and affirmations I wrote.

Bernie is seen “aligning with the divine” (part of my book’s subtitle) in a valley, on a mountaintop and at a riverbank, among other locations. Wearing that decidedly unstylish parka and toasty mittens beautifully crafted from repurposed yarn by school teacher Jen Ellis, he appears to be most comfortable in the tundra landscape. I dubbed this playful adaptation “Bernie on the Journey.

The response to my memes, and those of the world, was jubilant. I understand why. After an era of bloody Christmas trees, gaslighting, rage-tweeting and government-by-golfing, it just feels good to laugh. The kind of laugh that doesn’t erupt from mesmerized followers tittering over a bully’s mimicry of a disabled person. We’re talking a hearty Kamala Harris laugh. The kind that rolls up from my belly whenever I see a statue of the laughing Buddha or watch the Tennessee Ernie Ford episode of I Love Lucy.

It feels good to be in on the joke for a change, rather than serve as the butt of one. (In recent years, the last four to be exact, I have frequently had the thought that the universe really does have a strange sense of humor. How else to comprehend that a make-believe billionaire real estate developer from Queens whom many considered a joke could become president?) Bernie, who’s been criticized for being cantankerous, knows this. There he was chuckling with Seth Meyers, looking less like Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi and more like Mr. Rogers.

While watching the inaugural events, from the 400 pillars of light ceremony commemorating those who were felled by Covid, to the sea of monochromatic brights worn by guests, to Amanda Gorman’s profoundly moving exaltation poem, to the fireworks’ fiery glare that seemed to resound from sea to shining sea, to the calming presence of President Biden at the podium on the historic day — and in the subsequent days as he charts a clear course for the country, it became clear that our souls are a bit brighter now, too. Healing is happening. And what better way to further activate that healing than to laugh?

Meme away!

Author of SACRED LANDSCAPES of the SOUL: ALIGNING WITH THE DIVINE WHEREVER YOU ARE (2020) and the blog “A Life is God Writ Large.” karenbrailsford.com

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