Banksy’s modern Nativity, revisited in 2015: Trump’s wall, and Jesus

December 25, 2015

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
==> Georges Santayana,
The Life of Reason, vol. 1: Reason in Common Sense)

Those who don’t pay attention to history are condemned to repeat it? Then, gods forbid we should have leaders among the condemned, and heaven keep us from joining their folly.

Has there ever been a good wall that actually worked to keep trouble away? Do we need to rebuild the Berlin Wall in the Americas?

Thomas Nast helped bring down the crooks at Tammany Hall with cartoons. Boss Tweed, the chief antagonist of Nast, crook and leader of the Tammany Gang, understood that Nast’s drawings could do him in better than just hard hitting reporting — the pictures were clear to people who couldn’t read.

But a cartoon has to get to an audience to have an effect.

Here’s a cartoon below, a comment on the security wall being built in Israel, that got very little circulation in the west at Christmas time. Can you imagine the impact had this drawing run in newspapers in Europe, the U.S., and Canada?

It’s a mashup of a famous oil painting* related to the Christian Nativity, from a London-based artist who goes by the name Banksy. (Warning: Banksy pulls no punches; views shown are quite strong, often very funny, always provocative, generally safe for work unless you work for an authoritarian like Dick Cheney who wants no counter opinions.)

banksy-israels-wall-77721975_fda236f91a.jpg

Banksy’s modern nativity — does he ever bother to copyright his stuff, or would he rather you broadcast it?

*  At least I thought so in 2008.  I can’t find the painting now.  Anybody recognize a work underneath Banksy’s re-imagining?  Let us know in comments, eh?  Perhaps this one, by David Roberts?  Perhaps this engraving after Joseph M. W. TurnerTurner’s original? Plus, in 2008, most people said “Banksy who?”

Tip of the old scrub brush to Peoples Geography.

More, in 2011: 

More in 2012:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Thomas Nast in 1864: “The Union Christmas Dinner” pushed reconciliation in time of war

December 23, 2015

Thomas Nast may have done as much as Abraham Lincoln to invent the Republican Party.

Nast’s illustration for Harper’s Weekly for the issue of December 31, 1864, expressed his great desire for an end to the Civil War, and offered a vision of what could happen when arms were put down.

Image by Thomas Nast, in Harper's Weekly.  White House History @WhiteHouseHstry Tweeted: “The Union Christmas Dinner,” an illustration which symbolically depicts the reconciliation of the war-torn nation.

Image by Thomas Nast, in Harper’s Weekly. White House History @WhiteHouseHstry Tweeted: “The Union Christmas Dinner,” an illustration which symbolically depicts the reconciliation of the war-torn nation.

We were alerted to the image by a Tweet from White House History; the image above comes via SonoftheSouth.net.

An explanation of the illustration comes from The New York Times Learning page (for teachers — you’re invited):

As the Union military advanced across the South in December 1864, making Confederate defeat seem to be only a matter of time, artist Thomas Nast drew a holiday illustration betokening mercy for the vanquished and sectional reconciliation for the nation. Under the Christmas proclamation of “Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men,” President Abraham Lincoln is the gracious host who generously welcomes the Confederates—President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee, and state governors—in from the cold, and gestures for them to return to their rightful seats at the sumptuous feast of the states. Seated at the table are the governors of the Union states, and on the wall behind them appear portraits of leading Union generals.

Framing the main banquet scene are four circular insets that convey the message that if the Confederacy will lay down its arms, surrender unconditionally, and be contrite, then the Union will be merciful and joyously welcome them back into the fold. Viewing them clockwise from the upper-left, the symbolic figure of Victory, backed by the American Eagle, offers the olive branch of peace to a submissive Confederate soldier; the forgiving father from the biblical parable embraces his wayward son, whose sorrow for his past rebellion prompts the father to honor his son with a celebratory dinner; under the tattered American flag, the ordinary soldiers of the Union and Confederacy reunite happily as friends and brothers after the Confederate arms and battle standards have been laid on the ground; and, General Robert E. Lee, the Confederate commander, bows respectfully and offers his sword in unconditional surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant, the commander of the Union troops. In the lower-center is a scene from a holiday table at which a Northern family drinks a toast to the Union servicemen.

While Nast could be partisan, as in his portrayal of Democrats as mules kicking down a barn, or Republicans as noble elephants, and Nast could be subject to bigotry, as in his frequent jabs at Catholics and his portrayal of Irish immigrants as near-gorillas, much of his work in illustration for Harper’s and other publications offered a vision of a much better America which welcomed everyone — as his later portrayal of “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving” in 1869 demonstrated.

We could use more Republicans, and newspapermen, like the hopeful Nast, today (leave the bigotry behind).


With fondness, wishing it were true in 2015: Remembering “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving” by Thomas Nast, 1869

November 25, 2015

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, and Paris, France, and rejections of desperate refugees from was being rejected in their calls for asylum, 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.


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 Henry Clay, in which it was alleged Webster Clay got the House of Representatives to name Adams president, and Webster Clay 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

Nota Bene: Oh, to have a good copy editor. Clay, not Webster. How many years, how many thousand readers, before anyone read it as it was, and not as we expected it to be?


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