Archive for April, 2019

A Simple Debate

A Simple Debate

The most difficult thing about drawing this cartoon was deciding what the two people should look like. I ended up with two vaguely middle-aged white guys. But it took me a long time to get there.

For cartoons where the appearance of age/sex/race/weight has nothing to do with the point I’m trying to make, I try vary the character types for diversity sake. I am in fact a middle-aged white guy, so I fight defaulting to my own biases. But this can be problematic, depending on what the characters are actually doing or how they are behaving.

Say I have somebody in the background eating watermelon. It shouldn’t matter the race of that person. But it very much does. There are all sorts of deeply racists connotations associated with black people and watermelon. And with me as a white person drawing it — did I intend to offend? Was I unaware of the offense? Which would be worse? (Even writing about doing this in the hypothetical makes me squeamish.)

So after much due diligence, I drew what I drew to limit attention to the characters themselves. (The first guy is roughly a self-caricature because the rant is definitely my rant.) But in the end, I’m sure some could be distracted by the two white guys and question my motives. I know this because people make a point of telling me what offends them and often it’s nothing I intended.

That’s fine. In fact, it’s great. I think it’s better to have discussions (however awkward) than it is to avoid having them at all.


When Death Begins

In his scifi/satire book series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams tells a story about the planet Golgafrigcham. The leaders of Golgafrigcham hatched a plan to rid themselves of what they considered the basically useless citizens. They announced that Golgafrigcham was doomed, and so three arks were to be built and all inhabitants sorted into three categories: Ark A would contain the leaders, scientists, and other high achievers. Ark C would carry all the people who made things and did things. And Ark B would carry everyone else, such as telephone sanitizers, public relations executives, and management consultants.

When the time came, Ark B was sent off with a mission to find another planet to colonize and with the promise that the other two arks would follow. Of course everybody else simply stayed and enjoyed happy lives — for a very brief time till a virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone wiped them all out.

This is the story that came to mind when I read about the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners meeting this week and their decision to terminate the lease for the Planned Parenthood clinic in their county building. Right. The mere mention of Planned Parenthood can make things go sideways quickly, so I’m gonna state only my specific reaction: The beginning of a significant measles outbreak may not be the best time to be cutting back on public health resources. And perhaps digging deeper into our ideology may not yield the best results.

Feel free to discuss the details of all this among yourselves. I’m gonna go wipe down my iPhone with alcohol.

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Thinking Line 5 All the Way Through

Thinking Line 5 All the Way Through

There were at least two big lessons to be learned from the Flint Water Crisis, and we have the opportunity to apply them both in deciding the best course of action for Line 5, the pipeline that carries petroleum products along the floor of the Straights of Mackinac.

Lesson #1: Listen to the local residents. Line 5 currently carries a significant amount of the energy, particularly propane, that heats the homes of Upper Peninsula residents. Simply shutting down the line may seem a fine idea to us warm and toasty lower Michigan folks — and it may in fact be workable. But if you’ve lived in the UP, you know that winter (to paraphrase Garrison Keillor talking about Minnesota winters) is actively trying to kill you. Particularly January and February. So if there is a plan, it needs to be specified and discussed in detail before it is implemented and with contingency plans for after it is implemented.

Lesson #2: Don’t fall in love with the idea. A simple consideration: If kids are being poisoned, switching to that new system may not have been the best decision. It’s crazy to think how long the poisoning went on before enough political will was formed to begin to stop it. But you see a similar storm brewing here. The plan to dig a tunnel was made at the end of last year. It’s a done deal! Chiseled in stone! Can’t change it! We must stay with it no matter what! SCIENCE IS ON OUR SIDE! (Pul-eeze! If it were truly about science, we wouldn’t be talking about expanding our fossil fuel infrastructure. Line 5 would have been decommissioned years ago because of the plentiful and inexpensive alternative energy sources we invested in when we got serious about climate change.)

Perhaps as reminder a field trip to Flint could be arranged for the governor and state legislators. That’s something as a taxpayer I’d be more than willing to cover.


Go Green! Go White! …Go Teal!

Go Green! Go White! ...Go Teal!

Apologies to those who don’t understand the “teal” reference. I’ll explain that shortly. But I especially apologize to those who might perceive the cartoon as some sort of partisan dig in the great MSU/UofM rivalry. It’s not. Michigan Radio is a licensee of the University of Michigan, but I take no side. (I’m a Michigan Tech grad, so as far as the rivalry goes, I’m an agnostic. Which is to say, I acknowledge the existence of MSU and UofM, but I worship neither.)

This editorial cartoon actually happens to be an expression of pride — for Michiganders in general and the Spartan Nation in particular. Obviously their men’s basketball team has had (and hopefully will continue to have) a spectacular season. It’s not hard to support that. What may be less obvious is a recent decision by the school that is also highly supportable.

Teal is the ribbon color commonly worn to support victims sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar, who perpetrated many of his crimes while an employee of MSU. Last summer, the school was prepared to publish a “teal” issue of its alumni magazine, which included stories addressing and owning responsibility as well as lessons learned. Campus officials spiked it. Instead, an issue was published that included a lot of “everything is fine here” featuring interim president, John Engler.

But now the “teal” issue has been published. So again, we can all be proud of the success of the men’s basketball team. (I mean, when Duke loses, we all win, right?) But let’s be proud that the school has taken a very positive step toward healing the victims of sexual assault and preventing further sexual violence. As Paula Davenport, the current editor of the Spartan magazine said, “It is never too late to do the right thing.”