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Thank You for Your Sacrifice

Thank You for Your Sacrifice

Show of hands — who wants to talk more about coronavirus? Hmmm, not many, huh? Yeah, I’m fatigued myself. Unfortunately, it is destined to be a trending topic for quite some time. As German Chancellor, Angela Merkel said this week, “This is not the end phase but still just the beginning.” It was a timely reality check from an experienced leader. Merkel recognizes the danger in all the buzz about Germany “getting back to normal.” Sure, her country has been able to take some positive steps now due to effective social distancing and a robust national testing program. But they are still a long way from “normal” (whether new normal or old normal). 

What can we do? Well, listen to health experts, follow scientific methods, put people before party — all those should be obvious. But beyond that, I do have a suggestion:

Let’s try to acknowledge the sacrifices we all are making (large and small) in this generational challenge. It’s relatively straightforward to conceptualize the difficulties of a nurse working day after day in a COVID-19 ward of a hospital or a lab technician pulling double-shifts processing test kits. But there are also those who are stuck at home and are simply lost with the daily routines they’ve known all their lives now changed. That can be soul-crushing and yet the vast majority of us are still minimizing contact with others for the greater good.

If we can see and appreciate each other’s sacrifices, we have a much better chance of steeling ourselves to the reality that it’s going to be a long haul.

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It’s All Whitmer’s Fault!

It's All Whitmer's Fault!

When our son was three years-old, and my wife or I needed to take him away from something he was enjoying (typically a computer game) and move him on to something else (typically anything but a computer game), he would get very frustrated with us and say, “No! I want to do what I want to do.” And as we forged ahead, he would slow it down for us, “I want to do. What. I want. To do!” It was so sublimely simple — how could his stupid parents possibly not get it?! He would be totally exasperated with us.

Today, many Michiganders are exasperated. The quarantine necessitated by the coronavirus crisis has been difficult and there are legitimate reasons to be upset — not being able to go to work, home life turned upside down, economic insecurity. But there is also an awful lot of “I want to do what I want to do” going on. And this has led to some outlandish conspiracy theories and truly childish (and dangerous) behavior.

Look, I draw editorial cartoons, so I’m the last person to say that you shouldn’t vent. We all need on occasion to let go and tell the world what we think is not fair and what we want fixed. But when you do that in the midst of a pandemic, it’s critically important to differentiate between what you want to be true and what is actually true.

By the way, our son now works as a Certified Nursing Assistant at the Vet Home in Grand Rapids. He takes care of the basic needs of military veterans, elderly and not so elderly with compromised health conditions. They are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Our son has been vigilant in following the rules created by scientists and medical professionals to keep himself virus-free and is relying on the rest of us to do the same. Lives depend on it. If you need motivation, just think of him (the three year-old version or the current version, depending on what motivates you).

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Social Media Distancing

A stranger comes to your front door, introduces himself as LibTriggerPatriot69, and immediately engages you in conversation about politics. Well, not really a conversation — more like a one-sided rant that you’re expected to agree with and share with everybody you know. Would this be acceptable to you?

How about if there was this guy — just his chest, shoulders, and head — and he floated around talking in your ear all the time. All. The. Time. Mostly he would just be telling you about things that you need to be afraid of: women, immigrants, people of color, the idea that somebody else might be getting something that you’re not. You know, the standard stuff. But all of the sudden he wants to give you health advice, especially about what drugs to take to fight a deadly virus. Do you figure, “well, he seems to know an awful lot about home catheters (even though I’ve never seen his bottom half), I should definitely listen to him.”?

Of course not. And yet somehow we accept just this from social media and cable news hosts. (We could add talk radio and sketchy podcasts to the mix, but you get the point.)

To be clear, I’m not saying that you need to avoid any of these all together. Social media in particular can provide a lot of entertainment and personal connection value in these quarantined times. But as with a necessary trip to the grocery store, please, prepare yourself properly.

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Coronavirus Crisis Contradictions

Coronavirus Crisis Contradictions

I hope and pray you are all dealing with your coronavirus contradictions as best you can.

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GOP Senators Now and Then

GOP Senators Now and Then

Admittedly, comparing the financial crisis that precipitated the Great Recession to the one we’re currently experiencing is kinda apples-to-oranges. Different economics, different timelines, different triggers. Still, am I the only one feeling disorientated by stunning contrast of the GOP and the bailout money?

Go back with me a dozen years to a time when Senators from southern states pontificated at great length about budget deficits and fiscal restraint. Remember how they knitted their collective brows in grave concern about prudent spending of taxpayer money. In particular how Senator Richard Shelby threatened filibuster over bailing out automakers calling the money a “bridge loan to nowhere.”

As we now know, those loans turned out to be a pretty good deal — for Michigan and the country. Our manufacturing base was saved, the loans were paid back, and we enjoyed a decade of tremendous prosperity. I hope we will be able to say the same about the current bailout to the travel and lodging industry. It’s just more than a little galling the way those same senators are selling this bailout to us.

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Blaming “The Media”

Blaming "The Media"

Let me be clear: Opinion pieces are not all inherently bad. Good ones can provide context for the complex concepts and hard to understand situations. The late, great Jeff MacNelly once said this about editorial cartoonists:

“We violate all the rules of journalism. We misquote and slander and distort. [But] the interesting thing is, the political cartoonist usually, if he’s any good, gets a hell of a lot closer to the truth than a responsible reporter.”

Opinion pieces can take short-cuts. Actual journalists have rules and standards and ethics, which I’m told can really slow a person down! And they can be annoying. Do reporters have to keep asking that politician I support those stupid questions? Do they have to keep digging? It’s not their business. Oh, but it is. It’s vital that journalists do the hard work because who else is going to vet the truth? You certainly can’t count on the opinion people.

You may have noticed the absence of my cartoon last week on MichiganRadio.org. It was actually a pretty good example of where opinion and real news tangle. In the cartoon I suggested that our country was strong enough to survive this current disaster (not just the coronavirus pandemic but also the Trump Administration). It’s one thing to write it, it’s another to put it in a cartoon where humor is implied. With events moving at light speed these days, there was no way of knowing how the context might shift, so my editor thought it best not to run it (and I agreed). I certainly didn’t want something seen as a glib opinion distract from the actual news.

And context has changed quite a bit. Looking at the cartoon a week later, the most objectionable thing about it may be that I drew the two characters too close together — definitely not at a proper social distance.

Please be safe and take care of each other.

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We’ll Get Through This

We'll Get Through This

I was going to go on at some length, attempting to tie the cartoon together with the recent Michigan primary and the 2016 election and the importance of holding elected officials accountable. It was going to be a bit tortured, but in the end I thought I might be able to pull it off.

But given the current state of affairs, I couldn’t imagine why I would want to read something like that.

Instead, I only really want to state that I do in fact believe that we live in a great nation blessed with abundant resources to manage this crisis. Please be kind, smart, and vigilant.

Postscript: Michigan Radio decided against running this cartoon. They were good with the cartoon itself when they got it Thursday, but unsure about how context around it might change by the time readers saw it over the next few days. Mostly, they did not want to cause unintentional hurt to readers dealing with medical emergencies. I understand their decision. I’m posting it here because I still think it’s a good, thought-provoking editorial cartoon and almost every editorial cartoon I’ve ever drawn has had unintentional consequences.

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Michigan Primary

Michigan Primary

I’m sure many of you have seen the meme going around social media meant to assuage voters whose preferred presidential candidate has dropped. It’s just a block of words that says this:

Time to remember the best voting advice I have heard: Voting isn’t marriage, it’s public transportation. You are not waiting for “the one” who is absolutely perfect. You are getting the bus. And if there isn’t one going exactly to your destination, you don’t stay at home and sulk — you take the one going closest to where you want to be.

It’s not attributed to anyone, which is good because most most of these “quote memes” end up being attributed to the wrong person (or are simply made up). In any case, it’s a reasonable analogy and decent advice. I’m trying my best to take it.

It just would be so much easier if Sanders would stop insisting that he can explain the difference between “democratic socialism” and “socialism” to the American public. And if Biden would never ever never use the term “Joementum” again.

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Something as Awful as That Coronavirus

Something as Awful as That Coronavirus

It’s interesting the effects of even a small amount of passing time.

I had to travel for business this week, so I completed the cartoon on Monday before I left. Way back then, the coronavirus did not appear to have as much potential of achieving “pandemic” status, and the idea of it reaching Michigan was not top of mind. So pointing out that we are, in fact, already grappling with a significant public health threat in PFAS seemed, for lack of a better word, safe.

Now here it is Thursday as I write this, and while I stand by the cartoon and its message, I recognize that the context has certainly changed. Mostly, coronavirus seeming a lot less distant to our Michigan world.

As always, readers are free to interpret the cartoon however they want. I never intend to tell you anything — it’s much more a presenting of an idea for your consideration. So I’ve got no worries about the changing circumstances. Honestly, my immediate concern is having to travel through a major international airport later today. And the fact that Mike Pence is now the point person for a public health crisis — that’s a much bigger worry.

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It’s Too Bad We Don’t Have Leaders Like Owen Bieber. Wait…

It's Too Bad We Don't Have Leaders Like Owen Bieber. Wait...

Saturday night my my dad, my son, and I spent 40 minutes in the waiting area of a local restaurant. It was our own fault. We had failed to take into account that it was Valentine’s Day weekend, understandable considering we had just come from watching the movie 1917 and were not feeling particularly romantic. While we waited for a table to open up, I had plenty of time to take in the restaurant’s decor, the theme of which was very patriotic and with an emphasis on police officers who have fallen in the line of duty. And then also a poster of Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali? Why Muhammad Ali? Like I said, I had plenty of time to consider.

I was making no judgements. In fact, I appreciated the uniqueness (something unlikely to be seen in a corporate chain restaurant). But I couldn’t let go of the juxtaposition of the Ali poster. You could argue that Ali was a good fit as somebody who challenged the system and was passionate about expressing his freedom as an American — what is more patriotic than that? But if this was 50 years ago, Ali would definitely not be up on that wall. Back then he was widely regarded as decidedly un-American for refusing the draft for Vietnam (and, let’s be honest, converting to Islam).

I thought about this some more when I read longtime UAW President Owen Bieber died. The obits were very gracious about his life’s work. Yes, I know that’s how obits generally work, but by all accounts Bieber was a thoroughly decent human being who deserves to be remembered in positive light. But if you go back a few decades, it wouldn’t be hard to find harsh criticism about how he was a union stooge killing the American economy or a weak compromiser who ruined the union’s chances of making real progress.

Anyway, it’s always difficult to truly appreciate somebody in their own time. It makes me wonder whether Democrats won’t be looking back at some point and thinking, “why is it again we didn’t think Elizabeth Warren was the right choice to be our nominee?”

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