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:


Remembering “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving” by Thomas Nast, 1869

November 26, 2014

November 1869, in the first year of the Grant administration — and Nast put aside his own prejudices enough to invite the Irish guy to dinner, along with many others.

With a nation whose emotions are raw from events in Ferguson, Missouri, could there be a better, more timely reminder of what we’re supposed to be doing?

(Click for a larger image — it’s well worth it.)

Thomas Nast's "Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving," 1869 - Ohio State University's cartoon collection

Thomas Nast’s “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving,” 1869 – Ohio State University’s cartoon collection, and HarpWeek

As described at the Ohio State site:

“Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner” marks the highpoint of Nast’s Reconstruction-era idealism. By November 1869 the Fourteenth Amendment, which secures equal rights and citizenship to all Americans, was ratified. Congress had sent the Fifteenth Amendment, which forbade racial discrimination in voting rights, to the states and its ratification appeared certain. Although the Republican Party had absorbed a strong nativist element in the 1850s, its commitment to equality seemed to overshadow lingering nativism, a policy of protecting the interests of indigenous residents against immigrants. Two national symbols, Uncle Sam and Columbia, host all the peoples of the world who have been attracted to the United States by its promise of self-government and democracy. Germans, African Americans, Chinese, Native Americans, Germans, French, Spaniards: “Come one, come all,” Nast cheers at the lower left corner.

One of my Chinese students identified the Oriental woman as Japanese, saying it was “obvious.” Other friends say both are Chinese.  Regional differences.  The figure at the farthest right is a slightly cleaned-up version of the near-ape portrayal Nast typically gave Irishmen.

If Nast could put aside his biases to celebrate the potential of unbiased immigration to the U.S. and the society that emerges, maybe we can, too.

Hope your day is good; hope you have good company and good cheer, turkey or not. Happy Thanksgiving.  And of course, remember to fly your flag!

More: Earlier posts from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub

And in 2013:

Yes, if you’re a faithful reader here, you’ve seen it before.


Education just like making toasters?

September 30, 2014

Fred Klonsky, the best under-published cartoonist on education issues:

Fred Klonsky tells the truth:

Fred Klonsky tells the truth: “Teaching your kids like making toasters?” “Not my kids. Your kids.”

Also at Klonsky’s blog.


Joseph Keppler’s cartoon on why we need the 17th Amendment

April 4, 2014

This is the cartoon:

“The Bosses of the Senate,” by J. Ottmann Lith. Co. after Joseph Keppler Puck Lithograph, colored, 1889-01-23 From the collection of the U.S. Senate

One of my old high school classmates, Shaun McCausland, ran for the U.S. Senate in Utah in 2012, on the Constitution Party ticket.  Nice kid, I felt an obligation to pay attention to what he was trying to do, even with his running against my old boss, Orrin Hatch.

I was surprised to find in his campaign materials he e-mailed me, a call for the repeal of the 17th Amendment.

What?  That’s the amendment that gives us direct election of U.S. senators, instead of letting the state legislatures select them.   Why repeal?

Shaun sent along an explanation, from Constitution Party materials, as I recall, claiming that the 17th Amendment was a “power grab” by industry and other oligarchist groups, to take power from the states.  It was a move towards corruption, the material explained.

Seriously?  People think that today?

History takes a different view.

Prior to the 17th Amendment, state legislatures selected the U.S. senators.  Big corporate interests — the monopolists — figured this out in spades, and proceeded to buy state legislatures, thereby getting the right to name their friends to the U.S. Senate, in the perfect picture of a corrupt bargain (the charge originally aimed at the supposed deal between John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster, in which it was alleged Webster got the House of Representatives to name Adams president, and Webster was in turn appointed Secretary of State, the president-in-waiting post of that day).

Look at the cartoon.  You’ll see the fat “bosses” sitting around the back of the senate chamber labeled, “Copper Trust,” “Steel Trust,” “Oil Trust,” and so on.

Consider Montana, Utah and Arizona.  In each of those states, huge copper mines were among the leading businesses.  The domes of the Arizona and Utah capitol buildings are capped with copper, in honor of the leading role the ore and mineral played in early state history.

Who got elected to the state legislatures in those states?  Copper company-approved and -supported candidates won.

So, who was elected to the U.S. Senate, by the state legislatures?  Copper company-approved senators.

In 1913, when Arizona joined the union, one could make a case that copper controlled at least 6 senators out of 96.

And so it was for other trusts, in other states — or a mixture of trusts in some states. Think of the trusts of the time — the copper trust, the steel trust, the steel beam trust, the nail trust, the coal trust, and many others.

The rich guys ruled.

While this system technically violated no laws in those campaign-contribution-limit-free days, it clearly affected legislation.  The Progressive Movement arose as a grassroots movement, from farmers and laborers, from downtrodden immigrants, from the prairies, mines and mills.  When enough people got involved, they could out vote the trusts in a few things — but it still took more than a quarter century to change the election process for the U.S. Senate, to keep the corruption out.

Politics of the times from 1900 to 1920 were complex, and can be oversimplified easily.  Running that risk, let us note that by the time Woodrow Wilson took over the White House, reformers were maneuvering to fix problems in lots of areas, sometimes with great overreaches like the 18th Amendment and Prohibition, but also with long-needed reforms, and reforms headed in the right direction but not strongly or fast enough, like the creation of the Federal Reserve.

The 17th Amendment was intended to get corruption out of the U.S. Senate, especially the senator selection process.  Instead of leaving the selection in the hands of corporation-captive state legislatures, the 17th Amendment expanded democracy, making the selection of U.S. senators a choice of the people of the state, at the ballot box.

Keppler’s cartoon, originally published in Punch Magazine, tells the story in one panel.  It shows the U.S. Senate — very astute historians may be able to pick out and identify particular senators — with the chief door labeled “Monopolists’ Entrance.”  Coming through the door, and lining the back of the Senate, are the “Bosses of the Senate,” moneybags with legs, or in one case an oil barrel with legs, and with the name of the trust written across the front of their nattily-dressed girths.

The senators turn to their bosses, awaiting instruction.

Inscribed on the wall at the back of the chamber is a twisted rendition of Lincoln’s stirring description of the government intended by the Constitution:  “This is the Senate of the Monopolists by the Monopolists and for the Monopolists!”

There is a door to the galleries of the Senate, labeled “The Peoples’ Entrance.”  It is barred, bolted and nailed shut, keeping out the American people.

Keppler’s cartoon was published January 23, 1889.  Earlier reform attempts failed, in 1828, 1829 and 1855. Progressives including William Jennings Bryan, George Frisbie Hoar and Elihu Root pushed for reform in the 1890s.  By 1910, some 31 states had passed resolutions asking for reform; some of them initiated direct primary elections, though that didn’t generally affect the selections by the legislatures.  Partly to avoid a states-led convention to amend the Constitution, which could easily run rogue, critics feared, Congress took up the issue.  Congress passed the amendment, submitting it to the states on May 13, 1912.  By April 18, 1913, three-fourths of the states had ratified the proposal, and it was declared the 17th Amendment.  Ironically, by that time Bryan had assumed the office of Secretary of State, and it fell to him to proclaim the amendment adopted on May 31, 2013.

The fat cats lost.

Please remember that.

More:

 

Another cartoon, by Spencer, for the Omaha (Nebraska) World, poking fun at the time required to get the 17th Amendment; from the U.S. National Archives, collected by Robert C. Byrd, Senate Majority Leader:

Cartoon portraying the time needed to pass the 17th Amendment allowing the direct election of U.S. senators  By Spencer, for the Omaha World Herald, 1912  Reproduced from Robert C. Byrd, The Senate, 1789­1989

Cartoon portraying the time needed to pass the 17th Amendment allowing the direct election of U.S. senators By Spencer, for the Omaha World Herald, 1912 Reproduced from Robert C. Byrd, The Senate, 1789­1989


Yogi Berra and ObamaCare

April 2, 2014

Cartoon from Tom Toles at the Washington Post, April 2, 2014:

“ObamaCare: Nobody goes there. It’s too crowded.” Tom Toles in the Washington Post, April 2, 2014.

Why you need to know a little history to get good jokes:

Yogi Berra is famous for his sayings, some of which sound foolish at first, but which generally pack a lot of wisdom or sharp observation.

Berra grew up in St. Louis, which has many famous restaurants.  On some occasion, someone suggested the group should go eat at Ruggeri’s, and Yogi’s reply became famous:

On why he no longer went to Ruggeri’s, a St. Louis restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”


Pat Bagley: Corporate slavery, or “Misreporting the ACA”

February 7, 2014

Congressional Budget Office (CBO) figures show as many as 2 million Americans might quit jobs they don’t like, and go chase their dreams, because now they can get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare).

Conservatives, and more than a few news organizations, misreported the study to say, as they claim, that the ACA will require the firings of 2 million people.

You can read the CBO report here, and draw your own inferences (make them reasonable, please); but Pat Bagley, the master cartoonist at the Salt Lake Tribune, put it in picture form.  Several panels in this cartoon, each telling no fewer than a thousand words.

Pat Bagley's cartoon from the Salt Lake Tribune, on reports that the ACA would enable workers to quit jobs they keep solely to keep health care benefits.

Pat Bagley’s cartoon from the Salt Lake Tribune, on reports that the ACA would enable workers to quit jobs they keep solely to keep health care benefits.

This is why the GOP doesn’t like ACA, you know. It really does give average citizens some choice.  Freedom to choose NOT to feed the profit-gouging machines of the friends of the GOP threatens the GOP much more than did Americans drinking coffee instead of tea, in 1773.

Bagley’s cartoon is more than picture-perfect. It’s truthful.


Fred Klonsky’s 10-minute drawing: What Megyn Kelly really meant

December 15, 2013

Ten minute drawing. Megyn Kelly’s Santa Claus. Drawing by Fred Klonsky

Ten minute drawing. Megyn Kelly’s Santa Claus. Drawing by Fred Klonsky

If you’re not following Fred Klonsky for his education issue updates, follow him for his drawings.


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