Featured photo: Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (photo by Gage Skidmore, used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

The memes came fast, and they were furious.

Even before I had seen the actual footage of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suffering a health episode last week in which he froze and stopped speaking in the middle of a press conference, I saw the numerous clips on Instagram and TikTok making fun of the incident.

Various users, many of them millennials and zoomers, clipped the scene and added captions like, “Me when the Olive Garden server asks me, ‘Let me know when,’ as they grate the parmesan.”

But then the backlash to the reactions began.

Headlines like “Glitch McConnell? Senator’s frightening health moment shouldn’t be TikTok fodder,” and “Mitch McConnell memes are another sign of the internet at its worst,” started flooding Facebook feeds.

And I’m here to tell you that it’s bullshit.

Sure, there’s an argument for having sympathy, for not making light of people’s medical scares. But this isn’t just any old Joe that we’re talking about. This is about Mitch McConnell — the man who voted against providing medical treatment for 9/11 first responders, not once, but twice.

This is the man who opposed stricter campaign finance laws, which ultimately led to a little Supreme Court case called Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the reason why the wealthy and corporations are able to wield incredible influence on our elections.

This is the man who introduced legislation to eliminate the estate tax (which died in committee).

This is the man who blocked bills that would have increased election security after Mueller’s investigation found that there was Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

This is the man who actively pushed for the Keystone XL pipeline, which cut through native lands and could lead to environmental contamination.

This is the man who told former President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

This is the man who led efforts against the Affordable Care Act time and time again.

But perhaps most importantly, this is the man who led the action to block former President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court after Justice Antonin Scalia died, leading to Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch. 

He is one of the primary reasons why people’s access to reproductive health has been stripped away in this country.

Mitch McConnell doesn’t care about people. This is not a man who deserves sympathy or empathy.

Hundreds of thousands of people have suffered under his inhumane actions.

So when McConnell glitched last week, many of us smirked. We made memes. We made jokes.

It’s the least we can do in a system that has left many of us feeling powerless and voiceless.

Because under his watch, he has taken away free and fair elections, he has taken away access to healthcare, he has taken away constitutional rights. 

You can’t extend empathy to someone who doesn’t acknowledge the humanity of others. It doesn’t work that way.

Imagine if people made memes of Hitler when he was around, and then people clapped back to say, “Well, he’s still human.”

So yeah, if you don’t want people to cheer, make memes or dance on your grave when you’re dead, try not being a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, hollowed out, turtle shell of a human being.

Because we don’t empathize with tyrants.

Join the First Amendment Society, a membership that goes directly to funding TCB‘s newsroom.

We believe that reporting can save the world.

The TCB First Amendment Society recognizes the vital role of a free, unfettered press with a bundling of local experiences designed to build community, and unique engagements with our newsroom that will help you understand, and shape, local journalism’s critical role in uplifting the people in our cities.

All revenue goes directly into the newsroom as reporters’ salaries and freelance commissions.

⚡ Join The Society ⚡