Archive for June, 2020

When Did We Start Giving up on Tough Problems?

When Did We Start Giving up on Tough Problems?

I considered holding off on drawing this cartoon and saving it for next week and the Independence Day holiday. It would have been more of an indictment of how we as a nation have seemingly forgotten our ideals, how the United States was once young, scrappy, and hungry and we didn’t throw away our shot. (I can steal from Hamilton, too, Mr. Bolton.)

But ya know what? I want to celebrate America next week because there is still plenty to celebrate. I’m proud of my country and its talent, resources, and institutional structure. We have achieved brilliant success in our brief past, and I believe in the vast potential for success in our future.

Besides, I was feeling the frustration of our collective inability to take on difficult problems right now. No reason to save that up. Express it. Get it out there. Confront my fellow Americans with it and challenge them to reconcile who we are with what we want to be.

I have no idea what I’ll draw next week. It may come out as a criticism — it may come out as praise. Either way, it’ll be patriotic.


The City of Detroit Removes Its Christopher Columbus Statue….

The City of Detroit Removes Its Christopher Columbus Statue....

This week, the City of Detroit removed a bust of Christopher Columbus from its pedestal near the entrance of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. It’s in storage for now as the mayor and city officials decide what to do with it. No doubt it has historical value — it’s 110 years-old. Like many Columbus-related honors, this one came as a gift from Italian-Americans.

Columbus sailed under the flag of Spain, but he was born in Genoa in what is now Italy. Promoting the memory of Columbus was a way for Italian-Americans — who were heavily discriminated against as new immigrants in the early 1900s — to promote themselves as “real” Americans. So the statue was less about honoring Columbus the person and more about what Columbus represented. 

In a similar way, we know the statues and military bases in the South were not so much about honoring the supposed virtuous lives of Confederate Generals as it was about intimidating Blacks many years after the war to codify Jim Crow laws.

Still, history can be a very sensitive thing. We as a society need to be careful about how we handle it. The best take on this that I’ve seen is a recent post by journalist Mike Peterson on his Cartoon Strip of the Day blog, which can be found on What should we do?

The answer is to stop teaching Great Man History and switch to Major Moment History.

The coming of Europeans to the New World was a Major Moment, and it’s more important to study what it meant to everyone — everyone — involved than to memorize the names of individuals in the big chairs.

Important Point: The cure for Great Man History is not adding the names of Great Women and Great Minorities to the list of meaningless crap kids have to memorize.

It’s teaching how Major Moments — inventions and immigrations and wars and pandemics and economic booms and busts — changed normal lives and, hence, the flavor and tone of the entire nation.

It means fewer statues and more local museums.

You can read the whole article here:


Do You Want to Talk About Racism?

I am very happy not talking about stuff I find uncomfortable. And I especially prefer avoiding discussions about things that make me feel terrible. Racism would certainly be a topic that qualifies here. So, yeah, I can understand the inclination to deflect, side-step, or look-past the subject. But obviously that isn’t solving the problem. (Heck, talking isn’t even the hard part! It’s the doing after the talking.)

But here we are, America. Here we are again. We’ve been through this before. And we pretty much know what to do. All the post-incident commissions and panels and reports have identified the problems and recommended the solutions. We just somehow keep avoiding really talking about it.

Will this time be different? I’m hopeful it will be. And I find that hope in three words: Black Lives Matter.

Some find those words to be divisive. (Really, any words that address racism can be taken as divisive.) But I think the meaning behind these words, the true aim, is potentially something that can move us all forward.

I didn’t really understand this till it was explained to me. In 2016 I heard the cartoonist Keith Knight talk at a conference, and he was asked about Black Lives Matter. He referenced one of his recent cartoons where he used “Save the Rain Forests” as a metaphor: “When you say, ‘Save the Rain Forests,’ you are saying there is something uniquely important about rain forests that requires specific attention. You are not saying ‘screw all the other forests.'”

I’ve seen variations of this in memes and other cartoons, but I think the point is clear and something to build on. (If we talk and that talk leads to doing.)


Religion Photo-Ops

Religion Photo-Ops

Whenever I travel on a business trip or attend a conference, I like to go running. It gets me outside to actually experience the place I’m visiting. I’m used to getting up super early, so I run in the pre-dawn hours. City streets, parks, cemeteries, neighborhoods — my only real concern for safety being avoiding cars. As a 6 foot 3 inch white male, I just never considered myself a target. 

A few years ago, I was in Houston. There seemed to be no zoning laws for the streets near the hotel. Sidewalks adjacent to busy roads (and roads are always busy in Houston, even at 6:00AM) were three feet wide and often had telephone poles in the middle. So I made my way to a tony neighborhood and ran there. A law enforcement vehicle shadowed me from the moment I entered to the moment I left. I should have been unnerved by this, right? Nah. I came back the next two days (and wearing the same bandana and a hoodie). Shadowed again, but never engaged.

I am embarrassed to tell you just how recently I have realized what a privileged mindset this is. I mean, I was aware that most women would not feel comfortable running alone in a strange city in the dark, but for any person of color it would be nothing but red flags, fear, and stress. How could I not know this? How could I be so oblivious?

I write this to note that I have been pausing to consider what else I don’t know. And as a result, I haven’t felt qualified to comment much on our nation’s current convulsions.  

But this week, after the staged photo-ops by the President at St.John’s Church and St. John Paul II National Shrine, I finally felt I did have some qualification. It’s indirect to this fight for racial justice, but as a Catholic it is something I have thought a great deal about. I have long understood the President to the be the embodiment of the seven deadly sins (or, for old school Catholics, cardinal sins). But it was using these holy places as a backdrop that brought it into such stark relief.

Pride is generally considered the worst of the seven. What brought the President to stage these photo-ops? Pride. What renders him incapable of seeking reconciliation? Pride. What causes him to never admit an error and instead double-down, triple-down, whatever it takes to never appear to be wrong? Pride. The complete absence of humility. This is not how a servant of the people serves the people.