Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
A Couple of Announcements
First of all, apologies for the delay in posting this week. The fault is entirely mine, not Webmaster Dave’s. What’s been happening is, Webmaster Dave is transferring control of the weekly maintenance of the website over to me. This is probably a serious mistake but Dave has rockets to launch, giant robots to build, and death rays to fire, so this website is the least of his concerns. In the future any complaints about the website should be kept to yourself, as I will not be able to comprehend, much less address, them.
Secondly, I will be giving a slideshow/reading on Monday October ninth at 8:30 P.M. in New York City, at Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction [?, !, and little cartoon sweat droplets of alarm spurting off my head], located at 34 Avenue A, between 2nd and 3rd Streets. Tickets are six bucks. For more information, or to buy advance tickets, see: http://www.mopitkins.com . Also appearing will be my esteemed colleagues Emily Flake (Lulu Eightball), David Rees (Get Your War On), Neil Swaab (Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles), and others I haven’t heard of.
Gleeful Aside About Foley Scandal
Before turning to the theme of this week’s cartoon, I cannot resist the temptation to pause and take pure vindictive pleasure in the Mark Foley scandal. I for one have no impulse to join in the unanimous chorus of moralists condemning Mr. Foley as some sort of sick predatory monster. His former colleagues are falling over each other in the rush to cast the first, or at least biggest, stone, calling him “abhorrent” and “disgusting.” Mostly he just seems immature and sad to me. Obviously sexually harassing your underlings when you’re in a position of power is wrong, and writing crude come-ons to sixteen-year-olds when you’re in your fifties is sleazy and pathetic, but it’s not like the guy was keeping bodies in his crawl space. Most straight fifty-year-old men would confess, under duress and out of earshot of their wives or mistresses, to being attracted to sixteen-year-old girls. As a friend of mine (who was then dating an 18-year-old) once explained to me, this isn’t pedophilia, it’s ephebiphilia, attraction to young but sexually mature people, and it’s the biological (if not cultural) norm. Sixteen-year-olds are certainly not grownups, but they’re also not exactly children, as anyone who remembers being sixteen can tell you. What fucked the Congressman over, as if often the case with conservatives, was his timidity and repression. A Democratic lawmaker in poor Mark Foley’s position would’ve just called up a gay escort service and say, ‘hey, send me over a boy, make sure he’s eighteen and looks younger.’ Which is still illegal but well within the pale of Washington protocol. It is, as they say, going through accepted channels.
None of which is going to keep me from reveling in the spectacle of Republicans being force-fed their own guts in the last weeks before the election. Since they’ve posed as the defenders of moral values and the guardians of our children for so long, it’s a pleasure as rare and satisfying as a briny East Coast oyster or a fine Cuban cigar to see them exposed as fumbling perverts. The irony of Mark Foley as Chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus by day/ dirty old chickenhawk by night is only an especially heavy-handed example of Republican hypocrisy. It seems like I pose this rhetorical question every other week or so, but must every last conservative be publicly exposed as a hypocrite before the whole rotten ideology is finally discredited?
Still, let us make no mistake: no moral or logical points being made on either side are to be taken seriously, any more than are the impassioned arguments made by fans of opposing baseball teams about whether the ball was in or out. We all know which side everyone’s going to be on. The positions are just as predictable, and as arbitrary.
I will make two confident predictions about this scandal, based on a bottomless cynicism that has seldom steered me wrong with regard to politics. 1.) The fact that Mark Foley resigned instantly, foregoing the traditional twenty-four-hour interval of adamant insistence that he would never consider resigning, indicates to me that the e-mails and I.M.s we know about are but the tip of the iceberg. He was cutting his losses before anyone disclosed the taped phone calls and photos and videos and Imelda-Marcos-sized collection of underpants. Also, 2.) the fact that Dennis Hastert is saying he “doesn’t remember” being told about Foley, can mean only one thing to anyone who understands Washington legal language: he was told. Probably repeatedly, urgently, and in no uncertain terms. He is still in the I-will-never-consider-resigning phase.
Some conservatives have raised suspicions about the convenient timing of these revelations, and accused Democratic operatives of leaking the e-mails at a strategic moment for political gain. To which I can only say: man, I hope so. Wouldn’t that be beautiful? It would show that Democrats have finally, after over twenty years, learned something from Republican political techniques: fight dirty, stop at nothing, take no prisoners, destroy your enemies utterly and without scruple through any means necessary, no matter how vile. And I hope they have four or five more such bombs in reserve to drop in the remaining weeks before the election. Don’t let up until every last one of them has gone to rehab or jail. Humiliation and disgrace to all Republican scum. Swiftboat their asses, hard!
Actual Artist’s Statement
But anyway: this week begins a series of “Contributions of the World’s Religions,” which will likely culminate in my execution. Assassins take note: webmaster Dave is no longer formally affiliated with this website.
First of all, a disclaimer (not to be confused with an apology): I am well aware that it is only the fringe dingbats in any religion who ever get airtime--the Creationists and fag-bashers, the militant Zionists and Jihadists, the angry chanting mobs. Most religious people are neither fanatical nor cruel, and most of the world’s religions have produced great philosophers, scholars, humanitarians, and patrons of the arts. But I believe that well-brought-up people would behave decently without any metaphysical carrots or sticks to bribe or threaten them. And assholes, you may well argue, would find some other dogma to be homicidal fanatics about without religion (see, for persuasive illustration, the body counts of noted atheists Mao, Stalin, and Hitler as compiled in the June letters). I still maintain that nothing fills people with such dangerous (and annoying) certitude as the illusion that they have some inside knowledge of the Will of God. Religion may well be an ineradicable aberration of the human mind, something, like war, that we just have to live with. Although that’s what people have thought about most evils in history, from smallpox to slavery. I’d like to try doing without it for a while and seeing how it goes. At least we’d finally be free of Christmas.
Regular readers will know of my longtime antipathy to Christianity. I must hasten to emphasize that this is not because Christianity is any stupider or more pernicious than most of the other world’s religions. I just single it out for scorn most often because it’s the one I know best from personal experience and because, more importantly, it’s the one that dominates the culture I live in. My own religious upbringing wasn’t traumatic or damaging, as it seems to have been for a lot of children of Protestant Fundamentalists or Catholics, who all seem to turn into promiscuous self-mutilating Wiccan priestesses in reaction. My own most damning complaint about Christianity is that it was so goddamned boring. I had to go to an hour of church followed by an hour of Sunday School every week of my life until I left for college and I never sat through another minute of it after that if I could avoid it. Like school, it was a stupefying and useless imposition and a waste of my time.
But I would still bear Christianity no real ill will if I could just put it behind me and forget about it, like math class and Top 40 radio and TV. I would tolerate Christians with the same patronizing indulgence that I do toddlers and street schizophrenics if they weren’t constantly trying to make their delusions mandatory for the rest of us. I’m not the sort to go around spitefully disillusioning people and proselytizing for atheism—that would be as pointless and mean as telling children their teddy bears aren’t really alive or that there’s no Santa Claus. I’m happy to humor the childish. But when they start trying to ban contraception or push around homosexuals or force educated people to keep straight faces when they talk about “intelligent design,” it’s like: sorry, kid, but the grownups are trying to talk here. Go play with your imaginary friend a while.
Meanwhile, in the last month Berlin’s Deutsche Oper cancelled a production of Idomeneo which was to have featured the decapitated heads of Christ, Mohammed, and the Buddha for fear of violent reprisals (no doubt from the notoriously savage and vengeful Buddhists), and Muslims around the world once again took up their very favorite activity, angry chanting in the streets, in response to the Pope’s citation of a medieval scholar’s condemnation of Islam. I have as much respect for the Pope’s opinions as I do for Britney Spears’ husband’s, but I am also getting tired of Muslims’ angry chanting in response to every perceived symbolic slight from the West. And I really don’t like to see free societies censoring themselves because they’re so skittish about the threat of violence from touchy Muslims. What a bunch of bullies and crybabies. Let me extend a belated welcome to the modern world, where we all get offended by something every day and we’ve just had to toughen up about it. Aren’t any of you familiar with the Western saying about “sticks and stones?”*
As many as five years ago I was thinking of doing a cartoon trashing Islam, but my saner, more moderate friend Megan restrained me. Now I’ve decided, fuck it. Islam may be even more simplistic and literal-minded than Christianity, a list of strict and picayune rules such as you’d post in the front of a remedial classroom. About all that can be said for it is that it a.) dragged the warring, barbaric Arab world into the eleventh century and b.) has kept it there ever since. They did build some very nice mosques, it’s true. But the last time Islamic culture really had anything going was the middle ages, when they invented zero and named the stars and kept the work of Aristotle in print, during a time when Europe had completely dropped the ball of civilization. These days, though, it’s become even more moronic and thuggish than Christianity, thriving in impoverished nations with authoritarian governments and crappy-to-nonexistent educational systems, whereas Christianity, which was once just as murderous, is largely contained within Western secular democracies that have institutionalized the separation of church and state. Which separation turns out to have been instituted for good reason; our founding fathers had noticed that when the absolutist dogmatism of the church was allied with the armed force of the state, the first order of business was invariably to start killin’ folks.
If this is a war between cultures, and we have to pick sides, obviously I’m on ours—“ours” meaning the side of secular, pluralistic democracy. But as far as the conflict between fundamentalist Christianity and Islam, I have as much invested in that as I do in the sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites. Wake me up when it’s over.
Next week: Judaism and Buddhism (unless I decide to stick it to the Hindus)!
*Not to be confused with the traditional Islamic nursery rhyme:
Sticks and stones