It’s not about losing an election. It’s about losing our humanity.

Lessons in becoming a meme and taking back the message

Ceci n’est pas Janna (This is not Janna).

Have you seen this picture? This is me. Or, actually, it’s a picture of me, but it’s not REALLY me. Just like this is not a pipe.

The Treachery Of Images (This Is Not A Pipe) from Rene Magritte, 1948

On Wednesday, November 9, 2016, I attended an election watching party at the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia, along with hundreds of others. A proud Iowa-born expat of the US, I took the day off from work to watch the results come in across my day. I wanted to do that with other people, to have an atmosphere that was dedicated to the occasion and where I could unabashedly cheer (or cry) based on the results.

I was beside myself with excitement. I found a pantsuit at a second-hand shop (hello, three-million-strong #pantsuitnation). I had my mother’s pearls on. I handmade a Hillary pin, as I didn’t have enough foresight to order one from the US. I had the good fortune of meeting other American friends. I knew I would also be surrounded by interested Australians. The world was literally watching. There would be a big screen TV and the promise of beer to support whatever outcome.

CNN was hosting the event alongside the United States Study Centre at The University of Sydney. The press were there. My assumption was the Australian press were interested in the expat American response as well as the Australian response. My pantsuit drew attention. Radio interviews, TV interviews and newspaper interviews happened within a span of a couple of hours. What I didn’t pay attention to was the photographers.

During a moment of another state gone to Trump, I lamented. A photographer captured the moment brilliantly. By the late afternoon, I had been told by a friend in Iowa that they just saw my picture in Yahoo news. That’s when I realized the picture had been put out on the Reuters wire. It captured how I felt, I was proud about that, and I was bemused that it had been captured at all.

The image has been used over the past few days around the world. Friends are sharing meme sightings, news sightings, and there’s even a rumor I’ll be seeing my face on some mugs and tshirts in Texas (I’ve made the big time!). It has had several narratives put on it from other people. Let’s follow the trail for a moment:

  1. American expat watching the results in Sydney:

2. US election polling day in pictures:

3. Ha, ha, supporters of Hillary are crying and it is hysterical:

4. Guess whose side won and whose side lost?

5. College students need grief counselling (I’m 42, by the way. Thanks for the genes, Mom!):

6. Then to the memes about being a cry baby, having a tantrum because we aren’t getting what we wanted, and a broad lambast of our society for teaching kids that everyone is a winner (and the thousands of shares and the thousands of comments that come along with them):

By following the path of my photo and where it has emerged, I have had the opportunity to see the supportive, I-feel-your-feelings narrative as well as the graceless mocking or hateful (and repetitive) narrative that has been created around it. I know that this is not about me specifically. I’m not taking it personally (only comments that are specifically aimed at me give me a slight bristle, but even then I can look at it quite outside of myself).

Regardless, I am not going to be quiet about it. I am going to call out the hate around it. Ultimately, you don’t get to define the story of this photo. I do.

With that in mind, I thought I would join in and make the memes about the true narrative for me. There are so many, I could go on for days, but here are some golden nuggets that I would love to see spread around even more than the mocking ones. Spread them around!

Or how about these?

Try these on…

Now for my favorite one, in closing.

My commitments are this:

I will not find joy and boast in other people’s sorrows.

I will model for my children the way I would hope they would conduct themselves.

I will not fight hate with hate.

I will rally against hateful rhetoric, bullying, meanness, threats and acts of violence.

I will be proactive and protective of the rights and honor of everyone to love who they want to love, to be who they want to be, to believe in what higher being they want to believe in, and to make choices for their own bodies.

If that belief you hold is one that perpetuates hate, isolation and violence against someone else, and therefore are perpetrating evil against them (verbally or actually), I will call you out on it and do what I can to stop it.

I will seek understanding and connection to lessen the impacts of hate and narrow the divide between us.

I will be open to learning about my privilege and when I take it for granted or use it to harm.

I will call out against the marginalisation of people for some particular trait or belief they hold.

I will encourage critical thinking and discussion, no name calling, no calling people idiots.

If I see lies being posted, and I know them to be lies, I will call them out.

I will be diligent in watching and active in my participation around protecting myself, my family and others in my local and global communities.

I will work to rally Americans abroad to remain active in our citizenry.

I will work to ensure more young people engage and vote.

What will you do?