Editorial: Bernie Sanders captures the imagination

  • Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20. POOL PHOTO VIA AP/SAUL LOEB

Published: 1/25/2021 2:55:20 PM

No doubt 2020 was a tense year, what with the far-reaching impact of COVID-19, protests in response to violence directed against Black people and the political division demonstrated during the presidential race.

Frankly, 2021 didn’t start any better when extremists apparently inspired by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen from him stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6. And the death rate from the pandemic continues to rise, with 419,000 deaths at the most recent count.

Supporters of Joe Biden likely held their collective breath that no other acts of violence would occur before or during his inauguration. But then, Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who had two unsuccessful runs for president, unintentionally brought a bit of levity to the inauguration.

A masked Sanders sat apart from others, wearing a GoreTex Burton jacket and fuzzy mittens handmade by a Vermont school teacher while he clutched a manila envelope — a marked contrast to those who dressed up formally for the occasion. Frankly, Sanders looked comfortable and practical in a getup we would expect from a New Englander ready to tackle chores outdoors on a winter day or run an errand, say, to the post office. In this case, it was to bear witness to a historic moment that included the swearing in of the first woman and woman of color as vice president.

Sanders put it this way in an interview with Seth Meyers, “I was just sitting there trying to keep warm, trying to pay attention to what was going on.”

But despite the engaging speeches, songs and poetry that day, it was that image of Sanders sitting on a folding chair at the inauguration that went viral in countless comical memes on the internet. We’ve seen Sanders in movie and television scenes, sporting events, famous paintings and just random places. You name it, those on the internet found a way to feature his image in a humorous way.

Frankly, it felt good to laugh about something political for a change.

But leave it to Sanders to turn being a star attraction on the web into an opportunity to benefit others. His campaign store started selling sweatshirts featuring his image with all proceeds going to the Meals on Wheels program in his home state of Vermont. Given the pandemic, so many more people are dependent on such programs to get enough to eat.

(The sweatshirts, union printed and made in the USA, are so popular, they have already sold out. Any orders placed will have four to eight weeks to wait.)

We commend Sanders’ thoughtfulness, but such generosity won’t surprise Sanders’ supporters in Hampshire and Franklin counties. We certainly see this kind of generous spirit at the local level when area legislators pitch in to help programs in our region, whether it’s through fundraisers such as Monte’s March or assisting at the various food drives when that was possible pre-COVID.

We hope others will step up as Sanders just did.

Yeah, we’re feeling the Bern.

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