Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
This is a reversion to the old-fashioned style of Tim Kreider cartoon, the kind I drew pre-Bush and pre-9/11, as featured in my first book, “The Pain—When Will It End?” They might be described as oh-ho-ho-the-hilarity-of-the-human-condition cartoons. The idea for this one occurred to me several months ago, but I didn’t get around to drawing it until now because I felt locked into doing political cartoons and also because I couldn’t conceive of it being composed in anything other than a horizontal format, and these days the City Paper forces me to fit all my cartoons into a vertical space (though the exact aspect ratio varies wildly from week to week). But what with the large thought balloons, this one ended up being more or less square. Also, I felt this week that I might well saw my own head off if I had to draw one more political cartoon. I know many of you rely on me for a weekly antidote to the constant diet of bullshit we’re force-fed in America, of which you can’t avoid gulping the occasional bellyful just trying to breathe the air in this country. But at this point it’s like, OKAY, we get it: the Bush administration is inept, criminal, deluded and fascistic; they’re pathological liars and war criminals, spies and torturers and traitors; they deserve not censure or impeachment but the sort of highly ceremonial execution that would serve to exorcize their evil from our history, like the hangings at Nuremburg. Everyone who’s ever going to figure this out already has, most of them years ago. It took a few dim bulbs until the last year or so to notice that actually the war in Iraq isn’t going so well, and hey didn’t the government used to be able to like rescue people after natural disasters? Anyone who hasn’t gotten it yet and still Supports the President is so bred for docility, so congenitally ineducable, so rock-bottom Dumb that there is just no point in talking at them as though they were grownups at all. They’re farm animals who vote. What else is there to say? Nothing to do for it now but wait and see if the Democrats can, through pure luck, like a blind man falling down the stairs and landing on his feet, win enough seats in the house this year to start tearing this bastard’s Presidency down and sending some of his closest friends and advisors to Federal Pound-You-In-the-Ass prison.
But what was I saying a minute ago? Oh, yes—this week’s cartoon. Right. I don’t want to say too much about the inspiration for this one except that I was with a couple of married couples I know [note to my married friends reading this: this is not you], all hanging out in a kitchen, drinking coffee, making funny conversation, eating waffles--to all appearances functional, content, even happy adults. Except that I happened to know that all these couples were secretly struggling with problems so miserably tangled and intractable and that you’d want to go on Prozac if I just told you about them. Because my baseline emotional condition is depression, moments like this paradoxically lift my spirits, in sort of the same way that speed calms down hyperactive kids. I am touched and reassured by the insight that pretty much everybody is just barely keeping it together for the public, one bad day away from going on a shopping mall shooting spree. (It is for this reason I find the website postsecret.com so compelling and moving.) Similarly, I’ve occasionally been out in public with a beautiful girl, both of us dressed up, looking good and happy in each other’s company, and imagined other people looking at us with misplaced envy and longing, assuming that we were the perfect couple and I an undeserving lucky bastard, and I wanted to tell them all, Man, you have no idea how fucked up this situation really is. This is not to say that I don’t believe in happiness. In fact I know quite a few genuinely happy couples. I’m sure they have their problems, too, but essentially their lives are good. Thinking about them doesn’t cheer me up much, though.
A disclaimer: this cartoon is only autobiographical in the broadest and most abstract sense. Although I often envy my friends who are happily married or in good relationships, I have never, for the merest split-second, ever wished I had a child. If I had to choose between having a child or cancer, I’d have to ask what kind and how long have I got.
Thanks to Megan for her usual impeccable fashion consultation,
and to Myla for dissuading me from adding a redundant title at
the eleventh hour.