Internet Meme Demolition Derby: Election Grief Counseling Edition
Winter is coming…
The fairgrounds are silent. A biting northern wind blows leftover scraps of the summer frolic across empty grandstands…
Only the echoes of children’s laughter haunt the field where once they dared gravity to test the limits of their fear…
The arena is empty, the lonely attendant is just locking up as the sun slinks away ever earlier than expected. The season has ended on such a sour note. He wonders if there will even be another…
He starts at an unexpected sound from the arena floor, the pitted and dusty battlefield where so many wounded metaphors and impotent similes had been reduced to sentence fragments and broken imagery. There in the center comes a new foe. Swaggering across the battlefield this harbinger of the new era steps forward and issues a defiant, ugly challenge…
If your child needs grief counseling because of the election you have failed as a parent.
The attendant stops and turns. With a crack of his knuckles and a weary sigh he returns to his duties. Even in front of an empty arena, there is still work to be done.
So we had an election. You might have heard about it. Instead of electing the highly qualified former Secretary of State like a stable, normal republic we instead elected a Cheetos tinted con man who was supported by literal KKK members and White Supremecists. On the campaign trail Cheeto Hitler promised among other things, to deport millions of people, create a registry of immigrants based on their Muslim religion and build a “wall” along the Mexican border. He’s also really racist and sexist, having been caught on a live mike explaining that his celebrity allowed him to commit sexual assault and having been charged with discriminating against blacks at his rental properties. His campaign rallies featured him mocking a disabled reporter, encouraging his followers to assault protesters and routinely lying about pretty much everything. Oh, and his Vice President might think you can turn gay kids straight with electric shocks .
Yeah, I don’t quite understand it either.
The rise of Trump has coincided with a sharp rise in bullying incidents in our schools, as I’ve chronicled in a lot of the recent Weekend Reads columns. Children of immigrant descent, Muslims and other religious minorities, African Americans and other marginalized groups weren’t exactly safe in the first place. The elevation of a literal bully to the Oval Office has emboldened schoolyard bullies. Children are in fear for their lives and the lives of their families and friends. That fear is absolutely NOT misplaced. Shit is gonna get rough.
Enter into this environment the above meme, credited to dthoutdoors, who appear to be two lovely young men who like to hunt and fish and post pictures on Instagram of hunting and fishing. Good for them I suppose. What they appear to be claiming is that if the election of a literal fascist who has threatened to do awful things, up to and including a particularly lax approach to using NUCLEAR WEAPONS is not an occasion for GRIEF. And if your child does need counseling that means they are weak and their weakness is your fault as their parent. This is a common thread in a lot of conservative and reactionary thought, a deep suspicion of psychiatry and counseling in general. It is part and parcel of the ablest notion that mental illness is a sign of weakness. The people espousing this line of reasoning share internet space with the lovely people who dismiss the idea that internet harassment can lead to PTSD. These people are almost never medical professionals.
In reality of course Grief Counseling is a recognized and valuable form of therapy, introduced when someones normal grief coping mechanisms are overwhelmed by grief or trauma. In an era of school shootings one would think that the occupation of grief counselor would be fairly uncontroversial. But maybe our meme creators aren’t attacking them specifically, perhaps they are attacking the idea that the election of Donald Trump is not an occasion of enough import to merit grief. To that I would point out that they appear to be two young white gun owning male Americans. They are unlikely to see any friends deported, any family cursed at or spit on. They are unlikely to have had a swastika painted onto their church or temple or mosque or FUCKING PLAYGROUND. No one is going to grab them by the pussy. So of course they might need an education to develop some FUCKING EMPATHY.
And finally no… your child needing any kind of counselling is not your failure as a parent (unless you yourself are the source of the trauma I suppose.) Children face these kinds of events from a very different perspective than we adults. They couldn’t vote, this whirlwind of hate and fear is not their fault. Even the bullies in our schools are victims of a sort, often lashing out for reasons that could be addressed with a little more of that counselling stuff. The only parenting failure I see here is the failure of these young men’s parents to raise them to respect others, to love their neighbors, to care when people are hurting.
By the way, I wanted to also address the image underlying this meme briefly, as there is a controversy there as well. It is from a series of photographs by talented artist Jill Greenberg. In a 2006 series called “End Times” she published a fascinating series of photographs of young children crying. There was a certain amount of controversy as to whether it was ethical for an artist to intentionally traumatize a child for artistic purposes. People called her a child abuser and the Reddit hordes assailed her. It’s all bullshit of course, as Chris Reid explains.
First though, the photo shoot. Jill never took candy from her friends kids. The kids had candy given to them and it was requested back by the parents or the siblings. Requested back, not stolen but simply asked for; for many children that was all it took, the gentlest of suggestion that sent the kids over. Was it mean? As a parent of two I’m not sure it was, it wasn’t nice in the right here, right now sense, but those are some amazing photos and I would love to have some great photos of my kid in every emotion, including being sad. I think that’s maybe what’s key here. People are taking these photos out of context like those are the only ones that will ever be taken of these children. These are a couple out of 10s of thousands of photos these parents will have, and they capture something very real about childhood, something worth keeping.
Many of the kids played it up, melodrama in overdrive and Jill was there to capture it all. Some though, didn’t play along, they sat there and handed the candy back and forth like a hot potato all the while looking unimpressed. There was one wonderful little girl, Ava, who Jill hoped would be in the series, but even after two shoots the girl wouldn’t budge. That was it, she didn’t get featured and they didn’t do anything mean to get her to cry. Of course most of the time the kids weren’t crying they were just sitting there like kids do and when they did cry it lasted for a few second and then turned to smiles. Its hard to remember when you look at these photos that time passes but the contact sheets tell a different story.
I don’t think it is a stretch to posit that the Venn Diagram of Reddit assholes trolling a photographer for making little kids do something any parent knows they will do with little to no coaxing and the assholes who think kids who might need grief counselling after the country elected a Monster in Chief are crybabies with shitty parents has a shit ton of overlap. Because irony is dead.
As always, if you come across a meme that needs demolishing, drop us a line @Groundedparents on twitter, or use the contact form, or leave a link in the comments, or use a secret code from your Trumpocalypse safety bunker.
Winter is coming… but we are leaving the Internet Meme Demolition Derby open for business.
Featured Image Credit: BKL on Flickr