Just Listen to Me! I Can Tell You How to Vote!

Just Listen to Me! I Can Tell You How to Vote!

In the spirit of today’s cartoon, allow me to tell you some things that you already know:

  • That brother-in-law prolifically posting those unbelievably inaccurate memes from organizations like “FreedomPatriotAmericaLibertyNews”? Your delightfully clever yet cutting reply in the comments is not going to change his mind.
  • That dear church friend who prays right next to you and yet has diametrically opposing political views? Your unsolicited email detailing (with source citations and color-coded charts) the errors in her thinking is not going to change her mind.
  • Those co-workers having a conversation in the next cubicle in which they merrily parrot the lies fabricated by those extremist lie fabricators you absolutely detest? Your helpful interruption to set them straight and save them from a life of further ignorance will not change their minds.

Aggravating, isn’t it? It just seems that… I mean if they could only… But, but I’d actually be helping them if… *Sigh* In our heart of hearts we know giving in to those impulses will cause more harm than good. How do we know? Because we hate it when other people do it to us.

But cheer up. After the election, you can move on to the next phase. Unfortunately, that next phase involves not telling these very same people “I told you so” or “I still think you’re wrong” — depending on the election results.

Comments

Michigan GOP Bizarro World

Michigan GOP Bizarro World

Pointing out the inconsistencies and hypocrisies in politics has always been the go-to source for material for editorial cartooning. But in this year’s bizarro election cycle — oh my goodness! — it’s shooting fish in a barrel!

Of course tea party activist Wendy Day was dismissed from her job as grassroots vice chair of the Michigan Republican Party for leading a grassroots effort against tea party favorite Donald Trump. Naturally party chair Ronna Romney McDaniel justified her decision by emphasizing the supreme importance of party loyalty just as the party presidential nominee “unshackles” himself for a pitched battle with fellow Republicans. This stuff writes itself!

So it only makes sense that this year Democrats — the party heretofore known for their dysfunction — pulled strings behind the scenes to nominate a presidential candidate who (like her or not) actually aligns with the party platform. And Republicans — the party heretofore known for their absolute top-down control — ended up with a presidential candidate who is completely devoid of any virtue they supposedly represent: family values, business integrity, Christian morality, not whining. It’s almost too easy.

Maybe the true bizarro world would be one in which the inconsistencies and hypocrisies are difficult to find. As an editorial cartoonist that would present a challenge. As an American citizen, it’d be wonderful to have such a challenge.

Comments

Comparing Ford and Trump

Comparing Ford and Trump

It’s getting to be an archaic reference, so for you kids out there: Back in 1975 when Gerald Ford was president, upon arrival on a trip to Austria he stumbled down the stairway when exiting Air Force One. (Additional note: Back then it was normal to get off a plane and walk down steps to the tarmac, not a walkway connected to the terminal. I know, primitive.) He had some other mishaps caught on video tape — an avid golfer, on a couple of occasions he sent errant shots into galleries. But what really cemented the clumsy reputation was the first season of Saturday Night Live in which breakout star Chevy Chase played Ford as a bumbling, stumbling idiot.

As the woman in my cartoon said, Ford was a little incredulous about all this (he was a college football star at the University of Michigan and probably the most athletic president we’ve ever had), but he handled it with grace and humor. In fact in 1986 he hosted a symposium at his new presidential museum in Grand Rapids titled, “Humor and the Presidency.” Not only did he invite Chase, but he also invited columnists and editorial cartoonists, including Pat Oliphant who had mercilessly drawn Ford throughout his presidency with an oversized cranium and a band-aid or two prominently on the forehead. Ford was nothing but genuinely charming about it all.

So my cartoon isn’t entirely accurate. (One more additional note: Most of them aren’t.) Another shared trait between Gerald Ford and Donald Trump is that they are both flawed. Obviously the nature of the flaws matters a great deal. But maybe what matters even more is what is done with those flaws. When you fall down, do you get back up, learn from your mistake, and move forward with thoughtfulness and graciousness? Or are you Donald Trump?

(By the way, it was not a flaw but an honor that Ford was never actually elected president — he was appointed Vice President when Spiro Agnew resigned and then President when Richard Nixon resigned. Which is also a pretty good reminder that American politics have always been a least a little screwed up.)

Comments

Now That the Tigers Are out of the Playoffs…

Now That the Tigers Are out of the Playoffs...

So the common question these days is: “How did it come to this — how did we end up with these presidential candidates?” And the simplest answer to that is: “It’s our fault.” Would a curious, engaged, and active electorate have generated the current tickets? Probably not. I think there is a general sense that we could have done better.

But maybe we shouldn’t beat ourselves up too much. This self-governance — it’s a hopelessly human activity with all its brokenness and potential for failure. We are just bound to screw up sometimes, I guess. What’s the lyric from that Gin Blossom’s song, “If you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down”? Yep, that’s the one.

The thing is, we are the United States of America. We do need to expect more. Our country was founded on the very concept of expecting more out of its citizens. And for years we have been a beacon of that expectation to the world — certainly not perfect, but at least positive, hopeful.

Alas, we may have turned a corner. Recently I had the pleasure of hearing Kenyan editorial cartoonist Godfrey Mwampembwa speak at a conference. Mr. Mwampembwa goes by the pen name Gado, and he certainly knows a thing or two about having to deal with “big men” political leaders. As part of a panel discussion, he had this insight while discussing some of his cartoons featuring Donald Trump:

“The African people are watching the American election with amusement. They just cannot believe what is happening. Africans have always been lectured that ‘you have these dictators.’ And now we are laughing because you are going to get one of your own. And we can’t wait because we want to hear what you will say to us.”

Yeah, we can definitely do better.

Comments

Sometimes the Government DOES Owe Us Something

Sometimes the Government DOES Owe Us Something

In 2009 more than 11,000 untested rape kits were discovered in Detroit’s abandoned crime lab. Rape kits contain the physical evidence of victims of sexual assault. When processed, the DNA data generated can be used not only to bring perpetrators to justice, but also to add this information to a national database of sex offenders. This is especially useful because those who commit these crimes are often serial rapists — if they are successfully prosecuted, it can prevent future instances and help victims to find closure.

In response to the situation, the state of Michigan passed a law to fund the processing of these rape kits. Still, there has been a need for private donations and fundraising campaigns to get through the backlog and then to provide money for investigators to actually finish the job.

It’s easy for those outside the city to shake our heads (or wag our fingers) and say this is all just another example of Detroit’s uniquely awful dysfunction. But as it turns out, further investigation has revealed that smaller cities and towns are also suffering from backlogged rape kits. From a recent Michigan Radio report:

“The Michigan Attorney General asked cities to submit a count of untested rape kits in their jurisdictions. Backlogs turned up in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing, Battle Creek and several others.”

Exactly why this is, experts don’t really know, but the Detroit experience provides clues: Budget cuts and overwhelmed staffs. The lack of a clear and complete procedure for the entire process. Police sometimes callous indifference to the victims.

We are six weeks away from an election, so now is a pretty good time to ask: Do we want a responsive, reasonably funded government interested in real protection and prevention? Or do we want to continue down a path where rape victims end up depending on bake sales to provide them proper support? Please vote accordingly.

Comments

Need a Break from the Election Season?

Need a Break from the Election Season?

Listen, if you got yourself a big ol’ pot of roiling outrage going right now, I’m not the one to tell you to take it off the heat. It’s election season and who am I to talk you out of the delicious indulgence of indignation? I’m an editorial cartoonist, for crying out loud!

It’s fine to be appalled, exasperated, horrified. Perhaps you detest a particular candidate so deeply your very soul is in danger of choking on your own bile. Lovely. Feel your feelings. I’d advise against acting on them, but, certainly, go ahead and feel them. Right down to bitterest loathing and utterest disgust.

However, if you want a breather you might consider coming to Grand Rapids in the next couple of weeks and checking out ArtPrize. It really is quite remarkable — an inspiring mix of public art, entrepreneurship, governmental coordination and cooperation, and civic pride. Oh sure, you can find negatives if you look hard. Some people get in a snit over the founder being an Amway scion. Others have had issues with how the prize money is awarded.

So it may not be all rainbows and unicorns. But there is art and lots of happy people. You can even vote for something, not against it! And also there is beer. It is Grand Rapids, after all.

Comments

Reviewing Todd Courser

Reviewing Todd Courser

Who else thought when you first heard Basket of Deplorables: “That’s the perfect name for a punk rock band”? Well I definitely did, and it got me thinking.

Punk rock was in general a reaction to what rock and roll had become by the mid-1970s. It had more or less bypassed its original audience: the young and the disaffected. Radio stations had become categorized, playlists were standardized, established acts were given every advantage over the new and different. There were people who wanted to take rock and roll back, make it great again (to borrow a phrase).

Along came the Sex Pistols. Or more precisely, an awful person named Malcolm McLaren caught the punk rock wave and ruthlessly promoted the Sex Pistols. He was really quite ahead of his time in leveraging media for free, viral publicity. For McLaren, the music was secondary to the packaging. The well-being of band members was inconsequential. Infamy was the product.

The Sex Pistols only ever had one studio album and one very short train-wreck of a United States tour. At the end of the last song of the last concert, lead singer Johnny Lydon (known then as Johnny Rotten) famously asks to the audience, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” and dropped the microphone.

It was a moment of stunning honesty. At that point, Lydon and the fans were all disillusioned. They had wanted to believe they were part of something meaningful (and maybe they were), but now it was pretty obvious that they had been totally used along the way. I’m wondering if there’s going to be a “mic drop moment” with the Trump campaign.

Comments

Another Consequence of Student Loan Debt

Another Consequence of Student Loan Debt

My first instinct was to draw the weighty Student Loan Debt object as an anvil. You guys know what an anvil is, right?

An anvil is a block with a hard surface on which another object is struck. The block is as massive as it is practical, because the higher the inertia of the anvil, the more efficiently it causes the energy of the striking tool to be transferred to the work piece.

Yeah, that’s not very helpful for me, either. How about this:

An anvil is the very heavy hunk of metal that falls from the sky onto the head of guys like Wile E. Coyote and Yosemite Sam in Warner Bros. cartoons.

Better? Because I grew up watching those cartoons and apparently anvils are actually used for blacksmithing, which I was not aware of till much later. But then, most millennials probably have not seen those cartoons, so I went with the big boulder.

In a similar way, young people today are having a difficult time imagining starting off their adult life without significant debt. Earlier this week a study was released by the Michigan League for Public Policy that showed Michigan college students who graduated in 2014 had $29,450 in student loan debt on average. It’s a complicated issue, and there is plenty of blame to go around. I didn’t want to go down that road. I simply wanted to point out that crushing student debt has specific consequences for us Michiganders and our dependency on the auto industry.

Another report came out this week showing that Americans are borrowing more than ever for new and used vehicles.The total balance of all outstanding auto loans reached $1.027 trillion between April 1 and June 30, with 30- and 60-day delinquency rates rising.

Hmmm… More young people need to watch those old cartoons — I’ll definitely be wanting to use that “anvils falling from the sky” metaphor.

Comments (1)

We Need More of the Black Vote

We Need More of the Black Vote

Telling the wife of your boss at a dinner party that she is a racist is not a career enhancing move. Turns out, people don’t like to be called racist — even if they are.

Let me explain. Many years ago my boss at the time generously hosted a holiday dinner for his three employees and their spouses. I was sitting next to his wife and in the course of conversation she mentioned growing up in Grand Rapids and her not-so-positive experience with school integration. She had some lingering issues and asked me my assessment.

In a very academic (maybe even Aspergerian) way I told her, yes, I thought she was racist, but qualified it with my mini-thesis on what that means: There are three degrees of racism. First degree is a negative view of somebody else because of their race and openly acting on that negative view (think Archie Bunker). Second degree is a patronizing view of somebody else because of their race (think of kindly people of previous generations, “I feel sorry for colored people.”) Third degree is simply letting a person’s race affect how you treat that person, however small that effect may be.

I told her, like most Americans (including myself), she was probably a third-degree racist. Only the very young and the exceptionally pure are not racist. Still, it didn’t go over well. Also, I had a hard time hiding the fact that I really didn’t care for the mutton that was served, so that didn’t help.

If you are ever faced with a similar situation, my advice would be to avoid rolling out a mini-thesis. And if you can’t deflect the issue altogether, have a discussion instead of forcing a “teaching moment,” which is what I tried to do with this week’s cartoon. How’d I do? (If you feel compelled to call me an idiot, please qualify with what degree.)

Comments

Bill Schuette Occupations

Bill Schuette Occupations

If you spend more than a few moments with my wife’s family, there is a pretty good chance you’re going to hear a Caddyshack reference. That is, a quote from the 1980 film will work its way into the conversation — sometimes in context, always funny. So coming off a week’s vacation with them, it’s not hard to find the inspiration for the punch line in panel three of the cartoon. “You’ll get nothing and like it!” is of course how Judge Smails shuts down his grandson, Spalding, as the teen lists off what he wants to order at the snack shack.

Dang if that doesn’t capture the essence of the Attorney General, Bill Schuette, who in his tenure has made a habit of actively shutting down the desires of his citizenry. The straight-ticket ballot issue is the latest example. Michigan voters have demonstrated their preference to support a political party’s entire slate of candidates with a single mark on a ballot. Schuette is fighting with particular zest to uphold new legislation that bans straight-ticket balloting, and it feels like more for political advantage than out of a sense of duty.

I know. Shocker. Politics affecting the office of Attorney General! This is certainly not unique to Republicans or Bill Schuette. (Goodness knows that Democrat Jennifer Granholm leveraged the heck out of being AG to get her governor gig.) And I absolutely don’t support the idea that the AG should automatically endorse whatever the majority opinion happens to be. I think American history has proven just how wrong the majority can be.

But that doesn’t mean Schuette shouldn’t be called out for Smails-like behavior. It was actually a different scene from the movie that inspired the cartoon, but I couldn’t figure out how to work it in. It’s the part where Judge Smails is trying to impress young Danny Noonan with the need for laws and righteousness.

Danny, Danny, there’s a lot of, uh, well, badness in the world today. I see it in court every day. I’ve sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn’t wanna do it. I felt I owed it to them.

Comments

« Previous Page« Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries »Next Page »