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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. 

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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.

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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.

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Fearmongering!

Fearmongering!

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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What to Do in a Public Health Crisis

What to Do in a Public Health Crisis

I had a completely different cartoon mapped out when I sat down to draw, and then this story broke: Michigan reaches $600M settlement in Flint water crisis.

So I started again from scratch. It didn’t take me long to find parallels between the current coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing Flint water crisis — how Flint was kind of a “canary in the coal mine” for what we as a nation are experiencing now. Well, I suppose it’d be more correct to say that the Flint water crisis could have been a canary in the coal mine. (We all would have needed to notice and care that the canary died for the analogy to play through.)

But here’s what I really find notable: There are three basic types of consequences for these tragedies — death, chronic health conditions, and money. Which one is most likely to motivate people?

I’d say that evidence shows death is the least effective. We can’t (or simply don’t want to) relate to it. It’s too abstract, especially as numbers grow. Chronic health conditions are a bit more tangible — we can all imagine being sick. Perhaps not lead poisoning or lung damage sick, but sick.

But I think the best motivator is money. More specifically, our money, taxpayer money! The idea of somebody wasting our hard-earned money is pretty much what motivated this country to be a country. Perhaps we can channel that. A completely avoidable health crisis has now cost Michigan taxpayers $1 billion (this recent $600 million added to the $400 million already spent). That would seem like enough to get us to listen to medical experts.

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Other Options for Nebraska

Other Options for Nebraska
Editorial Cartoon — Michigan Radio

As many of you college football fans are already painfully aware, the Big Ten conference postponed its 2020 football season in hope of being able to play it next spring. The Pac-12 quickly followed suit. Many other conferences with smaller schools (including the Mid-America Conference) have already cancelled theirs.

It’s not surprise. Even if this country had a coordinated and effective response to COVID-19 (spoiler alert: we don’t), college football would be unwise before a vaccine (a real vaccine) can be administered nation-wide. 

Still, my first inclination was to poke fun at the superfans (But where are middle-aged men going to go to openly and freely unleash abuse upon 19 year-old kids?) or at the anti-fans (At last! Now competitive quilting is really going to take off!). But in the end, neither felt right. I like college football. The money around it is all messed up, and I worry about the long-term effects on the players, but it’s fun to watch, and it’s fun to be part of supporting a school. 

Good thing Scott Frost, coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, spoke up and provided me a focus. Earlier this week, while school administrators were deciding what to do about the season, Frost let it be known that his team was looking for other options. Wait…what? Options? What kind of options do you really have? Either you’re part of a conference or you’re not. There are no other options, technically or realistically. 

For somebody who gets paid millions of dollars and has done pretty well by the system, he sure doesn’t seem to understand or respect the system.

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Don’t Break the Law

Don't Break the Law

Do you remember how I wrote last week that I was on vacation? Well, that means that this week is the first week after vacation, which everybody knows means two weeks of work scrunched into a single week. Which means no additional commentary because I have to get back to work!

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The Scales of Modern Opinion

The Scales of Modern Opinion

This is family vacation time for me, so in order to fully appreciate and benefit from the “not working” part of what a vacation is actually supposed to be (a bit of a foreign concept to most of us Americans, I know), I drew this cartoon a week ago. That’s always a challenge — picking some topic that can remain relevant (heck, even recognizable) when news cycles continue to accelerate toward warp speed.

I was pleased to come up with an idea that (as the old-timey news people used to say) has legs. Much less pleased that it’s so true — that the opinion of a wingnut YouTuber or FaceBook “friend” or Twitter troll can so easily outweigh the thoroughly researched and vetted reporting of a professional journalist.

I understand the reflexive tendency. Journalism (or more typically, “the media”) falls just below politicians and lawyers on the list of professions we distrust (and apparently on par with scientists and medical experts, God help us). Already real journalists create uncomfortable situations by asking challenging questions, seeking the true story, and then reporting it. But lump them together with the bloviating talking heads of cable news and smart-aleck opinion writers like editorial cartoonists (the worst), and you get this ongoing rancor that is seemingly always at least a low boil.

Okay, fine. Let’s all shake our tiny fists at “the media” and how they all collectively have it in for us. But let’s at least try not to give in so quickly to fully embracing any opinion that happens to align with what we want to believe. Let’s seek and support real news.

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Go Ahead and Tread on Me

Go Ahead and Tread on Me

In lieu of additional commentary this week, I would just like to encourage you to find reliable news sources (AP, Reuters, NPR) and follow this story — the President deploying federal law enforcement to Portland and Chicago (with Detroit on the short list for next). It’s chilling and wrong and everything the United States of America is not. It’s vital that patriots (real patriots) take a stand against it.

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I TRIED to Talk About Something Else

I TRIED to Talk About Something Else

There’s an under-appreciated scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where Ferris’s sister Jeanie (filled with indignation and attitude) walks into the principal’s office. The school secretary blankly greets her with, “Hello Jeanie. Who’s bothering you now?” 

That’s it. That’s the scene. Well, it actually goes on from there and is very funny, but that short bit I think captures perfectly the general vibe currently in Michigan (and probably the whole country). 

The thing is, Jeanie does have some understandable reasons for her smoldering anger. Her brother is charmingly duplicitous and always seems to get away with things she cannot, and she’s looking to pick a fight over it.

We’ve seen this play out over and over in real life, especially as masking rules have tightened to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Witness all those defiant Costco shoppers — bare-faced, phone in hand, and full of fury. Unfortunately, we’re now seeing how that can quickly escalate — from alarmingly racist rants to stabbings and even death.

Later in the movie, a drug-addled young man identifies Jeanie’s problem for her. “The problem is you.”    And I believe it is. We could all do with less self-righteousness and more self-awareness.

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