Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
I am indebted to one "hammytech,"
who sent me my very first hate e-mail last week, for inspiring this cartoon.
The e-mail was titled "your ineptitude as a human being" and the
message it contained, in its entirely, read: "try another planet!!!!!!"
This was enigmatic. If not for the subject heading, it would not have been
clear whether the message even constituted an insult, since it's not exactly
bad advice and I have in fact been working on it.
It is my official policy never to respond to people who seem like they might
be assholes, cranks, dingbats, or idiots. However, for some reason this e-mail
really bugged me--it was just so unclear. Was it a joke from someone
I knew, or authentic hate, or what? I actually did a search for "hammyfest"
online and found only a Christian Rock band by that name. This made sense
to me: I imagined a teenage girl (I can only imagine adolescents as being
spiritually confused and musically tasteless enough to play or listen to Christian
rock, and only adolscent girls ever use so many exclamation points) dashing
off a feisty, Godfearing rebuke to one of my more blasphemous cartoons. So
a couple days later I composed a very thoughtful, carefully worded reply,
saying that sending anonymous insults to strangers seemed like kind of a chidish
and creepy thing to do, and asked whether this was really the sort of person
"hammytech" wanted to be. I advised them to think it over, have
a nice life, and not to write me again.
A mistake of course. "hammytech" fired back an apoplectic e-mail
inside a minute. I had said I wasn't going to read any more e-mails from this
person, but I couldn't help myself--I guess I had some insane, naiive hope
that s/he might explain themselves or apologize. Instead he sneered that I
ought to join the Taliban or al Quaeda, again with a hysterical string of
exclamation points. (Which criticism seems weird to me, by the way, since
my cartoons have been pretty ambivalent about the War on Terror--even hawkish
at times--and ironic too, if you think about it, since "hammytech"'s
own preferred M.O. of craven anonymous attacks on other people's creative
work is notably similar to the Taliban's tactics.) Instantly the mental picture
resolved into dreary clarity: just some angry, balding, sexless white guy
in his forties who listens to Rush (Limbaugh, not Geddy Lee et al). This is
the problem with the internet: it puts you into instant contact with ordinary
people, whom I have taken the trouble of structuring my entire real-life life
to avoid. Because quite a lot of them are, let's not kid ourselves, scum.
Anyway, I deleted the message and renewed my vow never to respond to such
people, never again try to reason with them or use large words or single punctuation
marks with them or treat them as though they were civilized grownups.
Anyway, this morning I woke up knowing that the one thing I had to do today
was think up and draw a cartoon. I spent the first hour and a half of the
day procrastinating, wretched and resentful, wishing, as I do every week,
that I could just quit this goddamn job. And then "hammytech"'s
second e-mail came to mind, and I thought: join the Taliban... yeah...Tim
Kreider joins the Taliban! Now, nine and a half hours and several extra
cups of coffee later, I am briefly convinced that I am a genius. I have drawn
what I believe is one of my best and most hilarious cartoons, one that may
well get me fired, or firebombed.
So if you're reading this, "hammytech," I don't expect you'll be
any happier about this than I am, but I'm afraid I owe you my grudging thanks.
You have refreshed my puerile glee in provoking the patriotic thugs of the
world to sputtering outrage, and honed it to a keen brilliance. I could not
have drawn this without you.