I hear that several other humorists came up with gags similar to mine last week (revealing what either Kerry or Bush was really writing in his notes). This embarasses me. Whenever this happens I feel that, even if the premise is funny and well-executed, I have failed to stay at least one step ahead of the crowd. I feel that it is my job to constantly push the envelope of humor, fairness, and decency. This week I am happier, confident that no one else will have hit upon the "lady" strategy devised by my friend Mike.
I was notified of the rumor that George Bush was wired for the first debate while I was drawing this cartoon. I checked out the photo online, immediately realized that the rumor was true, and incorporated it into the cartoon as I went. I watched the second Presidential debate later that night with my friends Chris and John while drinking Lagavulin single-malt, really an excellent way in which to numb and soothe oneself in the face of shameless lies. I am often frustrated by John Kerry as he blandly declines to leap on obvious lies and lets pass openings to rhetorically grab George by the throat with his teeth and shake him like a limp little rodent until he is dead. Thus this cartoon serves as a kind of simple-minded wish fulfillment. I would give anything to see Chris or Boyd or Mike--or, Good God, Jim Fisher--debate George Bush. Of course there's no way in hell any of them could actually get elected. If the skeletons in their collective closets ever got out it'd look like that big stop-motion battle in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.
I spent this week reading about war: War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, by journalist Chris Hedges, certain chapters in The Blank Slate, by psychologist Stephen Pinker, and The Siege of Krishnapur, a novel by J.G. Farrel. Although much of this reading was relentlessly grim and depressing, ultimately I felt reassured by these works; they made me feel sane. What's going on in this country right now is what always happens when any nation-state decides to attack another, a syndrome as predictable as the course of a disease: the intelligentsia and other dissidents are called unpatriotic or treasonous; arts and culture are censored in favor of propaganda and kitsch; the enemy is always accused of having attacked first, or intending to; our own soldiers are hailed for their courage and honor while the enemy is dehumanized; our casualties are honored as fallen heroes while enemy dead are either ignored or celebrated. At least in America the intelligentsia (they're called the "liberal elite" this time around) haven't actually been dragged out of bed and shot, just mocked and vilified. What really impresses me is that a relatively large number of people aren't buying it this time. Partly this is a tribute to the surreal nonsensicality of the Bush administration's propaganda campaign to build up to the war, and to the breathtaking misapprehension and incompetence they have brought to bear on geopolitical problems far out of their league, but also, I think, there are slightly more people in each new generation who remember how things went the last time and refuse to swallow the usual lies. I feel like the sanest, most decent people in the world are typified by my friends and myself--talking politics over dinner on my back porch or laughing over tiny beers on Dave's back patio. Anyone anywhere on Earth who's doing the same thing, just having fun, enjoying each other's company, and hoping not to get blown up by fanatical assholes--yes, even circles of guys gathered around coffee in Baghdad cafes, griping and bitching about the goddamn Americans--are, whether we ever meet them or not, our friends and allies.