Showing Some Restraint with My Addictions…

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Press, April 17, 2010

For this week’s cartoon, I’m proud of myself for showing a little restraint. But I don’t know if it made for a better cartoon. See, the more I draw, the less interest I have in participating in (and therefore promoting) the idea of sides. You know, that every issue has a left and right side, or liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican, Socialist/Fascist, and so on. Beyond the fact that most issues are more nuanced than having clearly definable sides, this sides business quickly devolves to stereotyping and name calling. When you chose your side, your focus becomes defining the other side as clueless, demonic, ill-mannered, stinky, etc., and not so much with the articulating and advancing your point.
But this presents a bit of a dilemma for an editorial cartoonist. Stereotyping and name calling happen to be basic tools of the craft. They are shortcuts that the readers recognize without labels or other additional context. So when I was thinking though this week’s topic (Michigan’s soon to be implemented ban on smoking in restaurants and public gathering places), I naturally wanted to use shortcuts. I wanted to draw older white dudes in trucker hats hanging at the VFW complainin’ about the galdurn govermunt takin’ away their God-given right to freely enjoy their tobacco addiction.

That would have made the cartoon easier to digest at a glance. But it also would have come across as a left-wing attack on the right-wing, which had nothing to do with the point I was trying to make. And that is point was: we all seem to tolerate government up to moment it doesn’t allow us to do what we want to do. Then logic (government can’t be both evil genius and complete idiot) gets thrown out the window. (I do, however, reserve the right to stereotype and name call at any point in the future. If that’s what I want to do….)

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