Just three days into 2020, Donald Trump ordered and executed the assassination of one of Iran’s top military leaders, Qasem Soleimani. The death of Soleimani evoked global attention to the United States government and a public outcry from governmental officials and citizens of Iran.
As more information was released to the press, speculation of a world war soon followed. Twitter was a main source for viewing public opinions on the very pressing matter and not long after news stories circulated, memes and jokes about a possible war began.
For generations that grew up with more traditional news outlets as their only source of information, jokes about breaking news and hard news coverage on the same platform is a new phenomenon.
“Black Twitter,” a digital community often credited with many online trends, soon began trending behind #Soleimani and #WWIII. The jokes and memes surrounding the death of Soleimani and a possibility of Americans being drafted for a war began to monopolize twitter timelines.
As an avid Twitter user, I found it difficult to find the humor in the memes and videos I saw on my timeline.
My immediate thoughts went to the civilians of Iran and the surrounding countries who could be terribly impacted by a war. I then began to consider American soldiers whose lives would be on the line for what I believe to be an unnecessary war.
Using comedy to deal with trauma and serious matters isn’t a rare coping mechanism. But before the joking and memes began to circulate on social media, there are a couple of things I wish many had considered.
Overall, citizens of the United States are far more privileged than those of other nations. As of 2019 we have the highest GDP globally. In addition, a physical war hasn’t been fought on American soil since the Civil War in 1865.
There is a detachment from war and violence that citizens of the United States has, since the vast majority of people haven’t lived in the middle of a war zone.
Publicly, it’s insensitive to those who have grown up and fled from war-torn countries to joke about a hypothetical war which would more than likely not be fought on American soil and therefore not be a direct threat to most of our lives.
In the event of a war, soldiers would be putting their lives on the line to fight in technologically advanced battles never seen before. It’s a war that I believe would be putting the lives of many in jeopardy with no real cause.
In Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech on “the three evils of the world,” he speaks on the insensitivity to “pain and agony.”
I believe we have crossed over into digital desensitization that can leave American’s view of the serious matters, damaged and skewed.
There is a time and place for joking and memes online, but it’s worth measuring your detachment from a situation before publicly joking about it.