I have long said, and it has been one of the underlying themes of my work, that political conflicts are seldom if ever really about the ostensible issues, that all the ideological posturing only masks far more primitive, irrational motives. I think pro-lifers hate sex; I think opponents of welfare and affirmative action hate blacks; I think NRA members have castration anxiety. I recently had the pleasant experience of having my vague suspicion validated by someone far smarter than me when I began reading psychologist Steven Pinker. In his book The Blank Slate, he writes that some political philosophies are heritable--not because there are genes for Republicanism, but because they correlate to other heritable personality traits; "conservatives, for example, tend to be more authoritarian, conscientious, traditional, and rule-bound." He also writes about a fascinating study in which people whose corpus callosa (the structure linking the two hemispheres of the brain) have been severed are given intructions visible only to one half of the brain. When they are asked, by some means intelligible only to the other hemisphere, why they did what they did in following those instructions, they always have an entirely seperate and valid rationale for their action. In other words (this broad unwarranted conclusion is my own, not Pinker's) the reasons people behave as they do have nothing at all to do with intellectual integrity or consistent logic; they're doing them for reasons they're not aware of or wouldn't admit to.
Hence, everything. Why do so many conservatives excuse or even defend President Bush for doing things that would have had them foaming at the mouth and shrieking for impeachment if Bill Clinton had done them? It's because of a whole complex of dumb arbitrary factors having to do with geography, class, and religion--his bumpkinish accent, his earnest, halfwitted demeanor, his professed faith, and so on. They just feel, in some indefinable, credulous way, that he's their kind of guy--One of Them. And so anything he does, from driving drunk to going AWOL to outing CIA agents to jerking off onto the corpses of dead Iraqi babies on live TV, is pretty much okay by them. (He didn't really do the jerking off thing, at least not on TV. If he did, though, I'm pretty sure the only thing his supporters would object to might be the sin of Onan.)
So anyway I kind of like stripping issues of their pretensions to show what more or less everything in this world really comes down to: fucking and/or killing. If you don't think people would really kill each other over something as trivial and relative as sexual mores you haven't been paying attention to the news. Women get stoned to death for committing adultery in Muslim nations. Fanatics blow up abortion clinics in the U.S. I don't really think the war in Iraq is about these issues, but it's certainly not about anything nobler or more important. (Let the record show that it was George W. Bush who finally turned the word "freedom" into an obscenity.) It's about territory (what the hawks like to call "a stable democratic stronghold in the middle east"), or resources (oil--duh), or just the universal, recurrent human need to kill a bunch of foreigners once every generation or so. And our licentiousness and immorality definitely has to do with why Fundamntalist Muslims despise us so much, although it probably doesn't help that we keep invading their countries.
Webmaster Dave and I have been talking about the Thong vs. the Burqa for some time now. Dave, like me, is tortured daily by the sight of pretty ladies. Unlike me, however, he would rather forego the pleasure of looking at pretty ladies if it means being relieved of the pain of looking at pretty ladies. On some days it's not even noon yet before Dave is screaming for burqas. Anytime I'm stumped for a cartoon he always suggests, "Thong vs, Burqa, man. Thong vs. Burqa." This week it got to be Thursday night and I found myself lying on the floor talking long-distance to Emily Flake, both of us moaning, "We have nothing, we have nothing," and contemplating running our embarassingly bad emergency backup cartoons. (Mine is called, simply, "Plan B." Pray that you never see it.) Thank God it did not come to that. Friday morning I vacillated for a while between this one and a drawing of me smooching big Jim Fisher (don't ask, you'll see it in a few weeks), but in the end this is what I went with. Steven Pinker aside, it's really a pretty silly, stupid cartoon, and I hope the drawing is funny enough to make up for it.
Tim Kreider will be appearing at the Fantagraphics table at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland this Sunday, October the 3rd. He plans on getting there by three in the afternoon, but you know how those things go. He will be signing copies of his Fantagraphics book, The Pain--When Will It End?, and will also be selling, for the first time anywhere, copies of the special pre-election limited edition of his collection of political cartoons, Fuck Them All.