Since February 24, the media has been flooded with coverage of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Among this coverage, however, have been jokes and memes — largely from Americans — poking fun at the tragedy. Although humor can often be a helpful coping mechanism for victims, downplaying a devastating situation from across the globe is outrageously disrespectful. Americans who remain largely unaffected by the war have no right to turn such a situation into something humorous.
Having grown up during a time where the US is consistently involved in conflict, our generation has become largely desensitized to death, and the pandemic seems to have only exacerbated this. Although the origins of this desensitization are clear in a world where death and exploitation have become the norm, it is not an excuse to make light of serious situations. While it is inevitable for Americans to comment on foreign politics, it becomes an issue when they are ignorant to the sentiments of those more directly affected by foreign events. The atrocities in Ukraine are nothing to laugh about, and claiming to be “desensitized” is no excuse for any American to participate in such humor.
Claiming to use humor as a coping mechanism is equally invalid for the majority of Americans. Of course, feeling scared or saddened by the event, even from thousands of miles away, is a valid and somewhat inevitable reaction. Yet, the second-hand sympathy of Americans is in no way comparable to the fear Ukrainian citizens are forced to wake up to every morning. On many social media platforms, users have been laughing about “World War III,” with TikTok comment sections filled with jokes such as “First war … what should I wear?” or “Season 3 about to drop!” Frankly, there is nothing to “cope” with in regards to this crisis as an American, and laughing at the deaths of real-life, innocent people and calling it a form of “processing” is absurd.
The blatant minimization of the hundreds of deaths that have occurred over the past few days in Ukraine and Russia is unacceptable. However, among the plethora of coverage of the event in the media are jokes that ridicule the leaders involved in the invasion, mostly targeting Vladimir Putin. This sort of humor can be more difficult to categorize as valid or invalid. Ultimately, bringing political figures off of the pedestals that they have been placed on in society can be beneficial. However, it’s important to ensure these jokes are not taken too far.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the atrocities that have followed are no laughing matter. While this crisis is only a continuation of years of tension and violence, it’s an entirely new level of hostility. Along with this increasing level of violence comes an influx of media coverage, leading Americans to attempt to interpret the war in various ways, including through humor.
However, as the average American citizen is relatively far from a personal connection to the conflict, the use of humor as a coping mechanism is disrespectful. While placing cat ears on Putin may invoke a laugh or two for people disconnected from the tragedy, it is imperative to remember the reality behind such jokes