Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
I remain painfully jealous over the international
cartoon furor, but I’m also secretly thrilled to see cartoons
making the news for the first time since Boss Tweed. It’s surreal
to read headlines like: “Cartoon Riots Continue for Fifth Day.”
And of course it’s always hilarious and endearing to see the entire
Arab world being manipulated into a hateful frenzy over nothing. I know
this is not quite the incendiary Muhammadan-baiting cartoon I promised
last week, but since I was a week behind the news I wanted to think
up something that wasn’t obvious, that was subtler, more intelligent
and inspired than any other cartoonist would be doing. I was blocked
until my humor consultant Aaron e-mailed from Seattle with the suggestion
that I should imagine some other, unlikelier group rioting in protest
of a cartoon—perhaps fans of Bill Keane’s Family Circus.
Aaron got lost in an ill-considered tangent about little Billy taking
over for Bill one day and drawing something offensive, but I immediately
realized that the unlikeliest possible group of outragees should be
scientists, traditionally the most rational and even-tempered of factions.
Certainly, scientists have their biases and blind spots and heated disputes,
but in the end their rigorous, peer-reviewed methodology enforces a
kind of superhuman objectivity and fair-mindedness. Ultimately this
cartoon is still at fundamentalist Islam’s expense, presenting
a tacit contrast to the more civilized response of empiricism to controversy.
Notice how these things don’t seem happen so much in the West--the
angry chanting in the streets and setting of things on fire and the
attacking of embassies and kidnapping of innocent aid workers? It is
not just because we are a Godless people who believe in nothing fervently
enough to lacerate ourselves and trample each other and behead foreigners
for it. It’s also because we are not completely batshit.
There’s something kind of poignant and pathetic
about the footage of furious Arabs whapping American and Danish flags
with shoes and setting them on fire, as though this could hurt us in
the same way that the cartoons of Mohammed have hurt them. They have,
as the saying goes, obviously mistaken us for someone who gives a shit.
They seem to be operating on a whole different cognitive level of development,
imbuing concrete symbols with life and real meaning, seeing images as
reality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not indulging some racist
theory that Arabs are less evolved than Westerners--most of my fellow
Americans are operating at about the same level, far more concerned
with the actual cloth (or decal) Flag than with the liberties it represents,
believing that what they see on TV is real. Alas, here at Winter H.Q.
I am away from my copy of John Ralston Saul’s indispensable book
Voltaire’s Bastards, or I would quote its chapter “Images
of Immortality” on the decline of imagery’s power in the
West coterminus with the rise of photography. The bemused incomprehension
I feel for those outraged rioters is that of a culture that no longer
believes in the image contemplating one that still does, passionately
and literally. Of course it’s also that of someone who’s
enjoyed relative safety, privilege, and luxury his whole life rolling
his eyes at the paranoia and rage of people who’ve always been
threatened, oppressed, and impoverished. However, although this may
make their reaction more understandable, I am not sure it makes it any
less stupid or wrong.
Jack Chick is the author and illustrator of those little
religious pamphlets you find lying around in bus stations and laundromats,
horizontal in format, crude in execution, frequently condemning the
evils of abortion, evolution, and Roman Catholicism, and extolling the
acceptance of Jesus Christ as your personal savior as the only sure
means to eternal salvation. Learn more at http://www.chick.com and repent,
you idolatrous baby-killing Papists.
Thanks to my physicist pal Chris for help on the precise
rhetorical terms for various logical and scientific fallacies in panel
I had to look up a Klingon translation program online
at an internet café for panel #3. The threat of anyone seeing
this over my shoulder made me as nervous and embarrassed as the prospects
of being caught looking at fuckingmachines.com in public. For those
not fluent in the galaxy’s most hostile tongue, the characters
in this panel are saying, “Death before dishonor!’ and “Shut
up! Your struggles only make it more painful!”
Do not worry, xenophobes and jingoists; I still intend
to draw a cartoon in the near future all about Islam’s, and Arabic
culture’s, many invaluable contributions to our civilization.
But first another, more urgent matter commands my immediate attention:
colleague Emily Flake informed me over lunch last week that an Iranian
newspaper is sponsoring a “Funniest Cartoon About the Holocaust”
contest. To any cartoonist with gumption, this is clearly a challenge.
The Persians have thrown down the gauntlet. I am entering. And I intend