Je suis Charlie!

January 8, 2015

If you follow my Tweets, or if you watch what I post on Facebook, you may have noticed I frequently credit editorial cartoonists with telling the truth.  Cartoonists fill a critical need.  I admire their work.

That’s not strong enough.  I find that political cartoons offer truths, in quickly grokable form, that would remain hidden in news and commentary otherwise.

Perhaps more importantly, cartoons lampoon those who desperately, bitterly need lampooning.

Why is that important?  Lampooning exposes crazy behaviors in our leaders, behaviors that if unchecked might lead a group to disaster.  Or a community.  Or a nation.  Or a planet.

Ancient sayings, properly and improperly attributed to various sources, over a period of 500 to 1,000 years point to the importance of lampooning in correcting actions of leaders and governments.  This version comes from a Sophocles play, Antigone (620-3):

For cunningly of old
was the celebrated saying revealed:
evil sometimes seems good
to a man whose mind
a god leads to destruction.

Lampooning helps, illustrating perhaps with laughter where the problem lies, though it also suggests that the chief perpetrators and promulgators of the craziness may be immune from such insights, whether through laughter or any other method.

If those lampooned genuinely cannot see the humor, a greater problem is exposed.  That’s the point. Expose the madness, lay it bare for all to see.  Sane people will work to help the insane, and avoid leading others into that madness.  Lampooning provides us a great tool to avoid disasters, if we would only look. Laughter is optional, if the message gets through.

Even insane leaders and groups understand this at some level. Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) wrote about the value of ridicule of majestic error in his Notebook:

No god and no religion can survive ridicule. No church, no nobility, no royalty or other fraud, can face ridicule in a fair field and live.*

We got a sharp and painful reminder of these facts yesterday, when a group of gunmen, stung by ridicule from a French satire magazine, stormed that magazine’s offices and brutally gunned down a score of people, a dozen of whom died.  Their form of religious struggle appears insane to sane people, and when that is pointed out to them, they behave with more intense insanity.

To these gunman, whose existence alone is a blasphemous assault on the idea of peaceful religion, ridicule in publication was too much to take.  Rather than answer with other cartoons or parody, or serious thought in print, they attempted to change the playing field’s fairness.

In doing they exposed their critics as accurate and true. Those already crazed by the gods probably have no sense of irony left, either.

This morning comes the word that Charlie Hebdo will publish next week as scheduled.  Instead of the usual run of 113,000 copies, the first run will be more than a million, to meet greater demand. Stricken down by gunmen, Charlie Hebdo rises phoenix-like, with strength multiplied by more than ten.

We mourn the cartoonists and editors lost.  They are martyrs in the cause of freedom and peace, and especially in the “jihad” they engage in for freedom of expression, something that we know now is not a uniquely American virtue or necessity.

Throughout history memorable phrases heralded periods of great change, when people took a stand against tyranny and violence, and stood for freedom and peace.

I am Spartacus.

Here I stand.  I can do no other.”

“Union!”

“. . . the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

” . . . Freedom of speech and expression . . . Freedom of every person to worship God in his own way . . . Freedom from Want . . . Freedom from Fear. . .”

Ich bin ein Berliner.

We Shall Overcome

I Am A Man.”

And now, “Je suis Charlie!”

Beyond Charlie Hebdo, the world’s cartoonists and editorialists storm traditional and electronic media with support for the cartoonists.  Here below are some examples, in no particular order.  What other cartoons or commentary have you seen that we all should see?

Andy Marlette, cartoonist for the Pensacola News-Journal borrowed the saying from the sticker that Woody Guthrie used on his guitar, “This Machine Kills Fascists”:

Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News-Journal, borrowing from Woody Guthrie's guitar

Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News-Journal, borrowing from Woody Guthrie’s guitar

Pete Seeger borrowed Woody’s line, and painted on the drum head of his banjo, “This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces It to Surrender.” Marlette also penned a piece for USA Today.

Cuban Angel Boligan (@AngelBoligan):

Cuban-born cartoonist Angel Boligan, on Charlie Hebdo

Cuban-born cartoonist Angel Boligan, on Charlie Hebdo

Nate Beeler in the Columbus Dispatch:

Nate Beeler's cartoon on Charlie Hebdo, for the Columbus Dispatch

Nate Beeler’s cartoon on Charlie Hebdo, for the Columbus Dispatch

Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune:

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Ricardo Sanabria in Venezuela:

Ricardo Sanabria, Venezuela

Ricardo Sanabria, Venezuela

Manjool, an Indian cartoonist:

“Last message from #CharlieHebdo cartoonists to their killers. My #cartoon “

Clay Bennett at the Chattanooga, Tennessee newspapers:

Clay Bennett's cartoon on the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo

Clay Bennett’s cartoon on the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo

NOT by Banksy, but by Lucille Clerc:

Cartoon by Lucille Clerc

Cartoon circulated as by Banksy, but really by graphic designer Lucille Clerc

John Cole, Scranton Times-Tribune:

@AnnePhutto said:  Je suis Charlie...my 12 year old daughter's favorite cartoon in response to the tragedy.  Cartoon by John Cole, Scranton News-Tribune

@AnnePhutto said: Je suis Charlie…my 12 year old daughter’s favorite cartoon in response to the tragedy. Cartoon by John Cole, Scranton Times-Tribune

Charlie Hebdo dead?  I don’t think so.

______________

*  Twain also warned against taking ridicule too far, and spoke on the difficulty of knowing, if you’re the butt of the ridicule:

  • Sense of ridicule is bitterer than death & more feared. — men commit suicide daily to escape it.
    Mark Twain’s Notebooks and Journals, Vol. 3, p. 346.
  • There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless. Observe the ass, for instance: his character is about perfect, he is the choicest spirit among all the humbler animals, yet see what ridicule has brought him to. Instead of feeling complimented when we are called an ass, we are left in doubt.
    Pudd’nhead Wilson

More:


Whom the gods destroy, they first make mad

July 31, 2010

Mad, as in insane, not mad as in angry.

A sign of insanity is failing to get angry at appropriate times.

Some person using the handle “globalpeace” posted this in response to another knee-jerk whine about Obama (see comment #2):

You didn’t get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.

You didn’t get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy.

You didn’t get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn’t get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn’t get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn’t get mad when we spent over 600 billion(and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn’t get mad when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn’t get mad when you saw the Abu Grahib photos.

You didn’t get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn’t get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn’t get mad when we didn’t catch Bin Laden.

You didn’t get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn’t get mad when we let a major US city drown.

You didn’t get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark.

You finally got mad when.. when… wait for it… when the government decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick. Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, are all ok with you but helping other Americans… well [expletive deleted] that. That about right? You know it is.

Not getting angry at appropriate times can indeed be a sign of madness.


Ed Brayton on the unbearable lightness of anti-Obama thought

July 1, 2010

This is why I like Ed Brayton’s blog, and why you should be reading him with some regularity: his ability to distinguish dross from gold, sometimes even without turning on his solid gold Hemingway s— detector.

Today’s example comes from Brayton’s Dumb[burro] Quote of the Day feature:

From Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum:

“Obama is detached from the American experience. He just doesn’t identify with the average American because of his own background. Indonesia and Hawaii. His view is from the viewpoint of academics and the halls of the Ivy league schools that he went to and it’s not a love of this country and an understanding of the basic values and wants and desires of its people.”

Isn’t that amazing? He’s unable to understand “the American experience” both because of his humble upbringing and because of his elite Ivy League education.

That leaves completely unexplained Rick Santorum’s detachment from the American experience, and detachment from reality.

One non-explanation at a time, I suppose.


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