Archive for March, 2021

This Is America

This Is America

I was scrolling through Facebook earlier this week, and I saw this post from Vincent Duffy who is the News Director and my editor at Michigan Radio:

Friend: What’s the latest on the mass shooting?
Me: This is America, you’ll need to be more specific.

It is almost word for word a conversation I had a few years ago with a work colleague from another country. He expressed concern about a gun violence event here in the US, and I had to ask him to clarify which one. How sad is that?

But what’s sadder than having those conversations is not having these conversations. My foreign friends and co-workers aren’t asking questions anymore. For Sandy Hook, Aurora, Vegas, Parkland, etc. they would want to know why/how something like this could happen. They would try to understand. This past week nobody has asked me about Atlanta or Boulder. I think it’s because they don’t need to ask. They know — this is America.

It’s difficult to come up with something new on our country’s gun violence. Even “this is America” is a callback to a song addressing the subject released by Childish Gambino three years ago. The video, with its sudden bursts of gun violence, is particularly disturbing, but that’s the point.

This is America. This is America.

It doesn’t have to be. But it is.


This Is Exhausting!

This Is Exhausting!

Ben Folds’ song “All You Can Eat” is a scathing critique of human behavior, specifically the American variety: 

See that a—— with the peace sign on his license plate?
Giving me the finger and running me out of his lane
God made us number one because he loves us the best
Well he should go bless someone else for a while
Give us a rest

The thing I like best about it is that Folds doesn’t pull any punches. He’s not going after a particular “side” — he’s just listing out his grievances, whether it’s professed peaceniks lapsing into violence or the self-righteous who confuse tribalism with holiness. He’s calling us out on our, um, stuff.

And that’s kind of the theme for this week’s cartoon. This particular example happens to be about the shortage of semiconductor chips that could cause 100,000 less vehicles to be built in North America this year. The same people who extoll the virtues of free market capitalism seem to be the first to demand government intervention. But only if it won’t provide a political advantage to somebody they don’t like.

We all have done stuff like that at one time or another — say one thing, do another. Truly, it can be exhausting.


We Interrupt This Program

Editorial Cartoon — Michigan Radio

First, let me be clear — anger and outrage are the very fuel of editorial cartoons. So I am not in any way trying to talk people out of their absolute right to be angry and outraged.

What I am suggesting is that it may not hurt to acknowledge the positive every once in a while.

Earlier this week I saw a post on Facebook from a guy I went to high school with expressing his thoughts about Speedy Gonzales and Pepe LePew cartoons. His point was that he enjoyed them and didn’t see anything wrong with them. Fair enough. But the way he said it was with anger and outrage at the “real losers in this country” who would disagree with him. And then, as it often happens, the subsequent comments took all that up a few notches.

I considered for a brief moment pointing out that I, too, love those cartoons, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong with them. Times change. People evolve. Some things age better than others. We are still free to enjoy them in the context of our experience, but others have good reasons not to.

Anyway, I was ruminating on that when I got an email from a friend thanking me for a caricature that I had done for him years ago. He has been using it as an avatar and in fact had just used it again as a volunteer to a project that has been collecting and publishing data about COVID-19 here in the United States. It struck me as a very un-angry and un-outraged thing to do. So I thought, “Yeah, there ought to be a way I can work something like that into a cartoon, too.”


Not Automatically On-Board

Before, during, and after drawing a cartoon, my brain is in a constant search for a match — some cartoon or other media where I could have already seen the idea. It’s the result of my paranoia that I accidentally commit the worst possible of sins, plagiarism.

And it’s more than a little unsettling (and definitely not mentally healthy) that the search part of my brain delights when it thinks it has found a match. “Oh! Oh! Now you’ve done it! Now you’re gonna get in troubbbbbllllllle!!!”

So it was after I had just put the final touches on this week’s cartoon. Fortunately, what my brain turned up wasn’t a forgery, but an influence. (Well, that’s what I think — you can decide yourself.)

Last year during the 2020 election, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, Darrin Bell, did a cartoon that was simply a drawing of a letter being written. The letter says,

Dear America,
I would very much like to critique Kamala Harris’s criminal justice record, but I’m too busy critiquing YOUR “birther” and “she’s not really black” nonsense. Would you please lay off the racism for a while?

Your Cartoonist,
Darrin B

I’m pretty comfortable in saying it’s similar but not the same. (Honestly, if I was going to steal anything, it would be the fearless way that Mr. Bell draws, but I don’t have the skills.) The similarity is this: I would love to more fully address Governor Whitmer’s lack of transparency in her decision-making processes, but there is so much nonsense in the way. To paraphrase then, dear Michigan, would you please lay off the conspiracy theories for a while?