Sarah Grace Goolden
As the state of Texas was ravaged by a historic winter storm which resulted in property damage, injury and even death, Senator Ted Cruz fled the disaster for an impromptu vacation to Cancun, Mexico. He returned the next day, calling the trip “a mistake” and claiming it was in hopes of being a “good dad.”
The internet was, as usual, quick to respond. Viral memes surfaced mocking the situation. Many of them included the image of Cruz with his suitcase and bags photoshopped into various locations, such as the beach and Mars.
Cruz made light of the situation at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, just days after being seen leaving Texas.
“I gotta say, Orlando is awesome. It’s not as nice as Cancun but it’s nice!” says Cruz.
Meanwhile, Texas was struggling with a natural disaster that led millions of citizens without power and dozens dead. It is too early to tell the cumulative cost of destruction, according to Lee Loftis, Director of Government Affairs for the Independent Insurance Agent of Texas. However, it is predicted that it could exceed the $125 billion toll from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
“All 254 counties will have been affected in some way by the freeze,” Loftis continues, highlighting the extent of the storm.
While Texans were left to brave the storm themselves, Cruz was able to escape the effects by hopping on a plane to Mexico. Even though he turned around and claimed “in hindsight, [he] wouldn’t have done it,” I would still argue that this was rooted in shame, not moral integrity. If the internet had not been quick to criticize the senator, I believe he would have remained somewhere warm and safe while the people he is supposed to protect suffer and freeze.
Memes are a way for information to be communicated succinctly and quickly. They are a reflection of society and public opinion. It’s possible that if the memes of Ted Cruz at the airport had not been created, many would not even be aware of the situation. The internet is a fantastic way to educate and inform millions instantly.
Historically, many voices have been unheard during events where people felt strongly. Memes are a way for anyone, no matter their socioeconomic status, race, religion, sexuality, gender and ability, to speak out. Anyone can post on the internet. This is both a blessing and a curse but I believe that memes are a way for an entire population to be heard in a society which so often excludes them.
The average age of a congressional representative is 59. Although this geriatric trend is shifting, with the inclusion of politicians like Caleb Hanna and Jordan Steele-John, it is still obvious there is a glaring gap in who gets a say.
Memes are an avenue for young people to join in the conversation. If minorities are being ostracized from being able to speak out formally against abuses of power, they must find a new format to be heard.
“Younger generations do not have the attention span to consume traditional political content,” said Wesley Donehue, Republican political strategist, “Memes are a great way to both grab their attention and to get a message to them in the two seconds they will give you.”
Although I disagree with the concept of Millennials and Gen Z not having the “attention span” to read the newspaper, I agree that it is effective to keep information short and sweet. The inverted pyramid, a journalism technique which formats articles with the most important content first, has been around since the 19th century, proving that everyone everywhere has always preferred their information conveyed as quickly as possible.
Politicians, especially wealthy ones like Ted Cruz, who rakes in a salary of $174,000 a year, will always try to find ways to keep their heads above water while others are drowning. People could argue this is a natural human instinct. I argue, though, that senators are elected to represent and protect their people. Abandoning them in their time of need is not only cruel and inhumane, but a neglect of power. I don’t believe this is something that can be managed with legislation. Rather, I believe the internet does a fantastic job of policing politicians and bringing awareness to injustice. Memes are society’s way of governing those who think they are invincible to natural disasters while others suffer.