Many of us have been spending the past week chuckling over Bernie mitten memes. It depicts Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in a chair at the inauguration ceremony, with windblown hair, blue mask and some toasty looking, up-cycled, eco-friendly sweater mittens. The image has been photoshopped just about everywhere – the sets of The Big Bang Theory and The Golden Girls, the local landmarks of just about every town in North America – even a few sightings in the Rainy River District. Families are pasting him into family portraits. Talented crocheters have even made amigurumi versions. Bernie and his mittens have brightened our social media feeds, just when we needed it most.
The Bernie mitten meme has grabbed our attention for more than just the mittens. I think it’s the authenticity people are gravitating to. He’s not trying to impress anybody or look polished in photographs. He didn’t pick those mittens as a style statement – he likes them, and they’re warm. It’s a reminder to do your own thing, no matter who’s watching.
Say what you want about Bernie’s politics, at least he’s as authentic as those mittens. Although he’s generally too far left for American tastes – at least for those beyond a certain age – what you see is what you get. He stands up for what he believes in, whether it will get him elected or not. He doesn’t alter his message to conform to polls and popular opinion. When listening to an interview with Bernie Sanders from 30 years ago, you’ll hear the same talking points he’s still using today.
And he walks his talk. He turned his meme into a sweatshirt, and donated all the proceeds to the Vermont Food Bank.
In today’s political climate, where we have politicians drinking mojitos on tropical beaches, while pre-recorded videos tell us suckers to stay home, and our country’s most poised and esteemed diplomat berates and belittles her staff, to the point of tears, behind closed doors, Bernie’s unvarnished honesty and his big brown mittens are a breath of fresh air.