Stick Figures Holding Hands Meme

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In the wake of the 2016 election, messages of unity proliferated on the internet. Bountiful social media posts promoted the idea of being stronger together, urging those across the political divide to move past their minor (or major) disagreements.

Peculiarly memorable was the “Bob and Sally” meme, which originated in January 2017 and swiftly gained popularity aslope Trump’s inauguration the aforementioned month. The image, which showed stick figures of a man and a adult female holding hands and wearing broad smiles, could be constitute in abundance on bipartisan Facebook feeds. The meme proclaimed that even though one had voted Democrat (for Hillary Clinton) and i had voted Republican (for Donald Trump, who won), “Bob and Sally are still friends, considering Bob and Sally are both adults.”

At the time, this meme received plenty of derision, mainly from leftist voters who believed it trivialized the many issues they had with a Trump presidency. It also spawned lots of mocking spinoffs and long, incensed Facebook and Twitter annotate threads. After all, as many were quick to betoken out and so, it’s piece of cake to get along when you’re not direct impacted by the more dangerous aspects of Trump’southward presidency — as many white people aren’t:

In 2020, as the meme makes the rounds again post-obit an even more polarized election season, information technology’southward articulate that the terminal four years accept only heightened these ideological tensions — and that there’s no articulate consensus from anyone on how to move forward as a united nation, regardless of politics.

The “let’s try to get along” memes have proliferated during ballot season

At that place weren’t merely two different political platforms at odds in the 2020 election, there were fundamentally different views of America. At the heart of those polarized sides — one staunchly in support of the Trump administration, 1 staunchly opposed — remains the idea that subsequently the election is over, we can all move on and be friends again.

And what meliorate mode to convey this notion in 2020 than flimsy social media posts:

The “we can still become along” mantra has long been a popular way to try to get by a polarizing election, but over the course of this year, the atmosphere felt much different. Calls for compromise poured in earlier Election 24-hour interval itself, as did blowback against them. In September, fierce backlash hit CNN’s attempt to joke near the nation’south polarized status. Its “Whatsoever room in the eye?” promotion drew scorn from its audience.

A meme mocking the idea of “compromise” posted in response to CNN’s ill-fated tweet gained detail traction. Simply it was simply one of an overwhelming number of replies pointing out that there’s not much centre footing to exist found between a fair and only social club and an administration fueling white supremacy.

The ridicule the CNN tweet received should have served, perhaps, as a warning to anyone looking to endeavour this sort of argument closer to the election, but it seems many people (and corporations) didn’t become the memo. Every bit election calendar week neared, examples of this type of point-missing were plentiful:

Among the latest, most quickly notorious instances of failed middle-ground-seeking was a now-deleted Gap tweet that stressed, “The one thing we know, is that together, nosotros tin move forward.” Attached to the tweet was an image of a (really ugly) varsity-style hoodie, half-red and half-blue, emblazoned with the Gap logo, zipping both sides up together. (The Gap later admitted that the hoodie design was non really a existent Gap product.)

A Gap hoodie that is half red and half blue.

It’s probably a adept thing The Gap never produced this hoodie for sale.
The Gap/Twitter

Criticism came swiftly. Gap’southward mistake: using the inanity of a hoodie to limited such a complicated and polarizing idea, as well as attempting to commodify and capitalize upon election-related emotions.

One would retrieve that, considering the potential for blowback, people would be discouraged from posting these pleas for compromise. But people with varying degrees of influence and visibility continue to postal service this type of compromise-peddling meme online, spawning heated reactions in response.

After having lived through a tense and divisive four years, many people no longer run across compromise and unity as a desirable outcome. The backlash over social media pleas for agreement reflects as much. And it’southward the Bob and Sally meme in particular that seems to have re-emerged as a conduit through which this conflict has played out.

For many on social media, “Bob” and “Sally” have become ironic symbols for denial, indifference, and privilege

The age-old push to find a centre ground has been an ongoing theme throughout the Trump administration. In one such plea, self-alleged Bernie Sanders supporter and urban fantasy writer Connie Huth used the Bob and Sally meme as a starting point in a 2017 Medium mail. “Crazy thought,” she wrote. “Sally and Bob could both sit down and actually talk about what the election meant to them beyond the superficial level thrown out equally truth by the mainstream media and come up to the understanding that both sides want the best for our country.”

Just the bones belief underpinning Huth’s statement — that “information technology’s not y’all vs me, merely We the People vs Elected Officials who are taking great reward of the fear and hate in this land” — seems to be increasingly in question. The extremities of the Trump era touch on many people on a personal level, from citizens impacted by escalations in detest crimes and violence nether his presidency to LGBTQ minorities threatened past his policies to people battling Covid-19 in red states that take done relatively little to edgeless the spread of the virus. Many of the rebuttal variants to the Bob and Sally meme stress this by pointing out that Bob the Republican has implicitly supported some policies most Americans find abominable.

Bob isn’t just supporting a traditional candidate; he voted for i who’south advanced causes that make life difficult for many sectors of society:

Tone-deafness in meme grade.

Of course, this idea often generated pushback of its own:

As the 2020 ballot neared, many people continued to greet the resurfacing Bob and Sally meme with overt hostility. The dismissive attitude backside it, critics implied, was part of the reason the era of Trump had been so divisive.

Memes reflect the times that we’re in, so it’s helpful to sympathise the many memes peddling the thought of “only getting along” as a crucial function of the ongoing gaslighting of American citizens. That might sound to some readers similar exactly the type of hyperbolic rhetoric that got united states into this mess, but I mean it very literally. Not only does Trump engage in gaslighting techniques, but, more than broadly, there’s no longer a clear consensus virtually what is true, what American values are, or what things nosotros should care well-nigh. This is the kind of gaslighting that arguably began with the presidential lie that led to the Iraq War and has continued ever since, as conservatives increasingly seem to embrace fundamentalist and regressive ideas about human rights.

And if there are many of us who can’t forget and forgive, say, when nosotros see Ellen DeGeneres hanging out with George Due west. Bush, in that location are even more of us who are simply at a loss when confronted with the blatant racism, science denial, censorship, and absolutism of Trump and his administration.

Loren Piretra, whose quote about rejecting attitudes of compromise went viral on Instagram, suggested that much more was at stake in this ballot than policy. “What this ballot has exposed is the stark difference in fundamental values betwixt those who supported Trump’south hateful, divisive rhetoric and those of us who voted for the future of society and its civility and betterment,” she
told Vox in an email.

“While this administration’s reign will eventually finish, it will be a greater challenge to forget those of our friends and relatives, whom we thought nosotros knew and held to a higher moral standard, who ultimately voted against humanity. We ever knew Trump lacked scruples; we didn’t await to personally know people who unabashedly and at times fifty-fifty proudly shared those same ideals.”

The possibility of compromising with people who voted for Trump, especially in 2020, isn’t always feasible. A tweet from Hannah Chase, a 20-year-old college student from Ohio, went viral on Ballot Day for suggesting as much:

“This ballot is historically aught similar the last,” Chase told Vocalism. “Donald Trump has been hateful to every group y’all could categorize yourself in.”

“He has made derogatory remarks toward the disabled, the belatedly John McCain who was a veteran, the Black, Latino, LGBTQ+, Muslim communities, I could go on forever. People who support this man and recall they can be friends with me, the daughter of a Mexican woman who had to teach herself English at five, are delusional. This ballot is too personal, and Donald Trump made information technology personal.”

To Hunt, supporting Trump is a deal-breaker. ”I have had to cut people off considering of their political views this election and it’s quite deplorable, honestly,” she told me. “Some of these people I grew upward with, some even related. But my sister is African American, my brother is a little dark-brown boy. So I experience when people praise Trump, they are discriminating [against] us all.”

She pointed out that the Bob and Sally meme and its ilk trivialize the loftier stakes of this ballot. “It’s hard for people to empathize,” she said. “They make memes and make it a joke. Eighty percent of those people have never had to live through oppression. I’m sure they take all had their difficulties, as life is never like shooting fish in a barrel. Only a lot of them have never been mistreated for the color of their skin.”

But non everyone takes a scorched-world approach with Trump supporters. Dylan, a Biden supporter who asked that I non reveal their real name out of privacy concerns, told me that shunning Republican voters won’t make the issues we’re currently facing go away.

“There’south such a balancing act right now,” Dylan said. “Folks in one army camp saying, rightly, ‘white people need to address the issue of other white people,’ and folks in the other saying, also with good reason, ‘there is no point in talking to white Trump voters, they won’t modify.’ Seems like a disconnect that will come back to bite united states of america if we don’t accost it?”

Dylan, who spent years working as a mediator in divorce settlements, described the process of mediating a divorce in a way that sounded awfully similar to the process of trying to talk politics in 2020:

“Everyone ofttimes starts out unhappy,” they said. “Everyone thinks they are not only right but right in such a way that if they don’t become what they desire, everything will fall apart. Anybody is coming from a place of deeply felt emotion.”

To Dylan, meeting people where they’re at is crucial to irresolute minds — and changing minds is crucial to the future. “Scorn notwithstanding, if we desire to outcome alter in future elections, we will have to alter the minds of some voters.” Dylan specially stressed that the onus is on white voters to speak to white relatives and friends, to do the work on behalf of marginalized people with more at stake in the conversation.

Chase agreed — up to a indicate. “After this election, a lot of conversation needs to take place,” she said. “If the people we have had to remove from our lives are willing to heed, that changes things.”

Hunt told me that at that place are plenty of things she’south willing to concord to disagree about, like gun control, revenue enhancement plans, the economy, even social issues similar health care, immigration, and police brutality. Only the bottom line for her — and for many of united states of america — is homo rights:

“When y’all say a woman does not have a choice in what happens to her torso, when you lot lock children up or impale them based on their pare color, when y’all discriminate against people based on who they choose to love, it’s a deal-billow.”

In short, compromising is complicated. And fifty-fifty as the presidential ballot result reveals that Joe Biden won, the tension over these issues continues to stay loftier. It looks like Bob and Sally won’t exist getting together for a pleasant afternoon of tea and customs bonding anytime soon.





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