Bernie Sanders started a craze of memes across the nation with his mittens at President Biden’s inauguration last week. What is it about this cold, winter wear that has caused the mittens to go viral?
Yes, they are just mittens. But, they represent so much more. In this time of cold, both wintery and emotional, they represent comfort and warmth. The mittens were gifted to Bernie and he obviously appreciated them. They may bring memories of caring gifts to our own minds. I remember my Aunt Ruth who gave me handknitted mittens and slippers on many Christmas’. She made them for all the nieces and nephews because she loved us and wanted us to stay warm. I always thought of her when I put them on. And even though she has been gone for many years, I still think of her sunny and caring personality.
We like the idea of nurturing that the mittens bring to mind. The idea that we can reach out and take care of each other sits well with us. People are in special need of extra compassion and thoughtfulness during these hard times. There is political animosity, racial unrest, even people becoming confrontational about how to deal with the pandemic. Someone to reach out with kind actions and provide warmth is what we all need right now. We need warmth of body and soul. Our souls are tired and it is time to lift each other up. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Be caring. There has rarely been a better time during my lifetime to employ the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. These mittens represent so much as their image goes viral around the world. They represent what we all need.
Bernie’s mittens were repurposed from an old sweater. That they found new life as hand-wear pleases our utilitarian urges not waste, but to give new uses to old things. Old things can have beauty and still serve. The wool from the original sweater is still doing a job and serving a purpose. The fleece lining is made from recycled plastic bottles. These are some of the values that have served our country well. And the Bernie memes show that government officials can be down to earth, just like us.
We also like the coziness of these mittens. At the inauguration, all around were people in finery. Beautiful long coats, stylish scarves, slim leather gloves, fancy footwear. As it should be for such a formal and momentous occasion. But there was also room for comfort and things that are meaningful to the wearer. We are nothing, if not a diverse people.
The popularity of these simple mittens goes far beyond what they are made of. They are a symbol. They represent things we have and things we want, in the figurative sense. Let’s hope that in the coming days and weeks these mittens will foster a kinder America. A place where we can all feel at home again.