Archive for Editorial Cartoon

Democracy Is Never a Thing Done

Democracy Is Never a Thing Done

What can be said about this election that hasn’t already been said? It seems like it has all been covered, right? And with that there comes a temptation to slow down when we see the finish line. But now is not the time let up — we all gotta run through the tape and complete the race at full speed.

So if I couldn’t come up with something new, I decided to bring back the most appropriate “old.” I didn’t have anything memorized and ready in my back pocket. But I did have a notion and some half-remembered platitudes about democracy. It took me awhile, but I was able to piece together enough of this quote to find it whole and identify the source. (Thank you, Internet! You aren’t completely awful.)

It probably would have been a better cartoon with just the first two lines: Democracy is never a thing done. Democracy is always something that a nation must be doing.

But what follows is so poetic, I couldn’t not include it. After all, Mr. MacLeish fought in two world wars, was the first Librarian of Congress, and won three Pulitzers, so, yeah, best to go with the whole quote.

I hope you find inspiration. I hope you vote and stay engaged. I hope we all run through the tape.


I Can’t Wait for This to Be Over

I Can't Wait for This to Be Over

There is just so much going on. And to be keeping up on all the latest developments in the election and the pandemic feels very much like drinking from the proverbial fire hose. But then there’s the other news we should all be paying attention to as well. Just this week the story broke of a new report revealing that parents of 545 migrant children separated at the US border cannot be found. That is terrible. And tragic. And overwhelming.

In the face of such a deluge, it’s not unusual for my brain to go to someplace safe. Someplace that matters, but really doesn’t matter. Professional sports, for example. It was here I considered the current World Series where the Los Angeles Dodgers are taking on the Tampa Bay Rays. No matter who wins, a single city and its metropolitan area will get to celebrate its second championship within a month — the Los Angelas Lakers recently won the NBA title, and the Tampa Bay Lightening won the NHL title.

How is that remotely fair? Okay, so maybe LA has some real fans. I don’t like them, but they somewhat support their teams. But Tampa Freakin’ Bay? Those people aren’t fans! They don’t love their teams through thick and thin. I’d venture that the only locals who have any level of true appreciation are Michigan expats. And here we are suffering with our Tigers, Pistons, Red Wings, and (as always) Lions. Yep, not remotely fair.

But anyway, if I can let my head spin on that for just a little while, I might work up the courage to get back to what’s really important. 

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A Plot to Kidnap the Governor — Where Did That Come From?

A Plot to Kidnap the Governor — Where Did That Come From?

I’m at a loss for words this week. I mean, I can understand how a plot to kidnap a sitting governor could get started. People are passionate. We get ideas. We say crazy, stupid things.

What I don’t get is how the plan got far enough that the FBI had to step in. I’m guessing it has something to do with extreme ideology, easy access to weapons, and encouragement from Presidential tweets. But that doesn’t mean I understand it.


Mike Shirkey: Other Jobs

Mike Shirkey: Other Jobs

Last week I was watching a panel discussion on the current state of editorial cartooning via Zoom. One of my good friends, Angelo Lopez, was one the featured guests. Angelo draws for Philippine News Today, and so much of his work reflects issues related to the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, a murderous despot. As a consequence, Angelo tends to draw a lot of skulls. In the course of his presentation, Angelo casually remarked, “I’m tired of drawing skulls.” 

Is “I’m tired of drawing skulls” not the most quintessential 2020 thing you’ve ever heard?

I don’t have the skills (or patience) to render skulls the way Angelo does, but I am similarly tired — tired of drawing about preventable death, tired of dealing with leaders putting party and ideology over health, tired of opinion winning over sensible consideration of expert advice.

So after the Michigan Supreme Court issued a decision against Governor Whitmer’s executive orders aimed at limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey jumped immediately into the fray to (1) demand the Governor negotiate with the Legislature and then (2) assure everyone that he had no intention of negotiating with the Governor. Of course. And then he followed it up with his beliefs about the pandemic:

“Things, I don’t believe, are an emergency, nor do I believe they’re necessarily urgent, but they are important,” Shirkey told Crain’s Detroit Business. “So I think we’ve got the time to do that.” 

Ugh. I couldn’t not draw about that. Even if I’m tired of drawing these skulls.


We Have Met the Enemy and…You Know the Rest

We Have Met the Enemy and...You Know the Rest

Comedian Jim Gaffigan has a bit where he says, “I’m a vegetarian now. Well, not a strict vegetarian. I do eat beef and pork. And chicken.” 

I think that sums us up nicely, don’t you? Us Americans. Us Michiganders. We sometimes say one thing, and then can completely contradict ourselves in the next breath. Well, not everybody. But enough of us.

I was thinking about this while I was watching (suffering) the presidential debate earlier this week. What has brought us to this lowly point? Well, yes, absolutely, politicians in general deserve their fair share of blame for the current state of affairs. And the moneyed interests that buy and sell them. And the shortcomings, if not flaws, of our particular system of government. 

But ultimately, enough voters in enough states elected Donald Trump in 2016. So there he was, and here we are. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Sure, we all can be hypocrites at times. We all have those tendencies to abandon certain principles in order to feed our id. But the thing about being an adult (and a good citizen) is that you try to control those tendencies instead of letting those tendencies control you. We’ll get to see how that plays out in this election.


Don’t Want No Radical Lawbreakers Around Here

Don't Want No Radical Lawbreakers Around Here

It’s election season, which brings out the yard signs, which brings out the people who steal and vandalize yard signs. I’m sure you’ve seen the stories in newspapers and the postings on social media. Maybe you’ve had first-hand experience.

I try not to be too judgmental. I can imagine how in a moment of passion (or, more likely, drunkenness) an otherwise reasonable individual could have a lapse of reason. Naturally, it would need to be followed up with an apology and full restoration. It’s forgivable, right? Yard signs are by their nature ephemeral.

What I can’t abide is defending the act. It falls squarely into “the end justifies the means” school of tortured justification and morally bereft politics. (The saying is typically attributed to Italian Renaissance writer, Machiavelli. But I believe the modern spelling is M-c-C-o-n-n-e-l-l.)

In the end, the simplest solution is the best solution: Don’t steal or vandalize yard signs.


Feeling Safe in Michigan?…

Feeling Safe in Michigan?...

As always, you are free to take the cartoon however you’d like. But I feel compelled to say that I did intend it in a spirit of camaraderie. It’s an incredibly stressful time — the fires, the floods, the ongoing pandemic. All whipped into a frenzy by the upcoming election. I’m with you. I feel you.

So when I read the headline this week “Rare mosquito-borne virus suspected in Michigan,” I thought, “Yeah, that seems about right.” I laughed and then went looking for something that would cheer me up.

I think most of us have certain go-tos (songs, videos, stories, etc.) that we have seen or heard over and over and yet they always bring the joy. One of mine is “Learn to Fly” by the Foo Fighters. Specifically, the video of the 1000 people playing the song back in 2015. A young man, Fabio Zaffagnini, wanted to have his favorite band come play a concert in his hometown of Cesena, Italy. So he organized an effort to have 1000 musicians play “Learn to Fly” in the hopes of attracting enough attention to make it happen. (Spoiler alert: It did.) The video just fills my heart.

A day or two later I happened to catch the recent story of Dave Grohl, founder of the Foo Fighters, had written a song for a 10 year-old girl, Nandi Bushell, who had recently beat him in a drum-off competition. Again, fully filled heart.

All that to say, there are a lot of truly terrible things going on right now. A little humor and a bit of joy can go a long way toward making it tolerable. 


How Do You Feel About the President’s Lies?

How Do You Feel About the President's Lies?

Ugh! It happened AGAIN! These minute-by-minute news cycles are killing me. I had a complete cartoon all mapped out:

  • Frame 1 – Trump telling a bedtime story to a middle-aged Michigan guy, “…and then all the high-paying manufacturing jobs came back and the Michiganders lived happy ever after.” The guy smiles and says, “What a great story. It’s obviously not true, but I love hearing it.”
  • Frame 2 – he turns to the other side of the bed and says, “Okay Uncle Joe, now you tell it.” And Biden starts in with “Once upon a time…”

We Michiganders are (for the lack of a less politically charged name) suckers for a “I will make manufacturing like it used to be” story. You’d think we’d learn.

But as I went to draw it, the news broke from the new Bob Woodward book about President Trump knowing full well about the deadly seriousness of the coronavirus, yet purposely downplaying the risks, even rage tweeting at one point to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” That sucked most of the oxygen out to the recent Biden and Trump visits to Michigan to sell their plans for bringing back high-paying manufacturing jobs. But as with every Infrastructure Week this administration ever launched, the featured story quickly dissipated.

The craziest thing is, by the time you are reading this, the story (and taped recordings) of the President of United States willfully letting a deadly disease spread could become a distant memory from many news cycles ago.


Memorial Drive, Detroit COVID-19 Victims

Memorial Drive, Detroit COVID-19 Victims

If you have limited time, I would encourage you to quit reading now and just go look at some of the videos taken at the Memorial Drive event on Belle Isle on Monday. It was really quite poignant. It’s so difficult to conceptualize what large numbers of deaths actually means, and this seemed like an awfully effective way of making it meaningful.

That said, some have argued (callously but correctly) that all these people were going to die eventually anyway. Yes, sure, but I’m pretty sure these people didn’t want to go when they did. And certainly not in the way they did — mostly alone, many struggling for breath. 

Some have also argued (again, callously but correctly) that wearing a mask is a personal choice. And so is deciding whether to stop at stop signs. It is your choice, but it’s important for your personal safety and the safety of others that you do stop. Dr. Deborah Birx was in Michigan this week and had this to say:

“We’re asking for behavioral change and whenever you ask people to change their behavior, it needs constant reinforcement. But I can tell you every place that has instituted a statewide mask mandate, or a countywide mask mandate, we see the impact on the cases. So, it is not theoretical. Masks work, and they protect and prevent spread of the virus.”

We who have been blessed not to have lost a loved one during this pandemic can’t possibly know what the mourners felt driving that route on Belle Isle.  But we can honor their loss by doing our part to limit the spread of the virus.




First, I want to stress that I’m not making a “both sides do it” point with the cartoon. Well, okay, I am, but it’s nuanced (and like political conventions, political cartoons are not particularly well suited for nuance).

In my sampling of the Democratic and Republican Conventions over these past two weeks it was clear that fear was the featured technique to attract my vote. For the Democrats it was, “Can you imagine four more years of Donald Trump?” And for the Republicans it was one long, extended, panicked scream.

So, yes, while I would have preferred to hear more from the Democrats about what they are for and less about what they are against, the Republicans left me wondering what is the color of the sky is in the dystopian world they seem to be living in. Again, both sides, similar technique, but WAY different orders of magnitude.

Regardless, the reason it’s done at all is that it works. Or, at least, it has worked in the past. It’d be great if we can prove them wrong come November by voting on what we aspire to, not what scares us.


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