Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Updated 06/04/08

Note: We at The Pain bid a fond farewell to Harvey Korman, beloved to us for reducing us to tearful, stomach-aching laughter on countless occasions on The Carol Burnett Show and for his immortal performance as the vile Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles. “Just let me have a little feel--!”

Artist's Statement

Thanks to my friend Jesse for forwarding this rather endearing quote to me. Interested readers can view the context here. Given the premise, the cartoon pretty much wrote itself. There were a couple of obvious possibilities—a big bucket of liquid shit, Hillary Clinton herself, etc.--that I resisted out of professional pride.

“Now I’ll Eat Anything” makes a pretty good motto for the American presidential campaign in general. It’s gotten to be that time, when both candidates will eat absolutely anything they have to to win. A nice metaphor for every humiliating pose they have to strike, every dumb hat they have to wear, every fanatical or unrealistic position they have to espouse if they want to be president. Yes--I will nuke Tehran! I unconditionally support Israel no matter what atrocity or affront to human rights it perpetrates. America has no greater friend than Israel. America has no greater friend than Ireland. America has no greater friend than Poland. There is no greater threat to our national security than Cuba. Statehood for Puerto Rico! My pappy took me hunting every week when I was a kid. Bring me a deer--I will shoot it! I love the Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart. Bring me a pancake that looks like Jesus--I will worship it. Bring me your ugly squalling baby, its face slimy with mucus—I will kiss it. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I believe Creationism deserves equal footing with Evolution. I will certainly look into your concerns RE 9-11/ the Disclosure Project/ Stephen King’s connection to the assassination of John Lennon. I feel more strongly about the issue of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain than about the threat of al Qaeda, the national health care crisis, and the tanking economy combined. I will make oil prices come back down. I will never raise taxes under any circumstances. I will deport all the illegal Mexicans. I’ll deport the Arabs! Shit, I’ll line up all the dirty Irish and shoot ‘em, just for sweet fuck’s sake please vote for me.

I have made clear my resolute lack of interest in the Israeili/Palestinian conflict, but even so I cannot help but note of a certain let's call it an imbalance in American political discourse on this subject. Specifically, that every candidate for the presidency has to convince the electorate that he (or she) is a blindly dogmatic pro-Israeli partisan somewhere to the right of King David before he can be considered for the office. For someone as seemingly reasonable and fair-minded as Obama this has to be the intellectual equivalent of eating the Palestinian baby.* Last week there was an article in the Times about the older Jews of Florida being leery of Obama because they fear he’s not pro-Israel enough. There are many among them who believe that Obama is an Arab, that he’s Palestinian, that he’ll fill the cabinet with the apostles of Farrakhan. Is it some sort of reverse prejudice that I am disappointed? I mean you don’t expect any better of the rubes in Kentucky, but the Jews have this reputation for intelligence and education. I guess it goes to show that ignorance and gullibility cut across all boundaries of faith, ethnicity and class. Or maybe it’s just that residency in Florida trumps Judaism, making even the normally keen Semitic mind go bad, like lox left out in the sun.

In drawing the third panel I found myself unconsciously trying to reproduce an illustration I remembered from an old MAD magazine of a guy clutching his stomach and groaning with dyspepsia (dyspepsia is one of those words, like psoriasis and nolo contendere and schmuck, that I only ever saw in MAD) after eating fast food. Luckily I happened to be back at my undisclosed location in Maryland for Webmaster Dave’s wedding at the time, so I could haul out my big box of yellowing musty MADs and pleasantly waste time ransacking it until I found exactly the drawing I was thinking of. It’s by Harry North, Esq., who, inexplicably, was never one of MAD’s stars—perhaps his style was not as cartoonish or distinctive as Don Martin’s, Al Jaffee’s, or even the perennially unfunny Dave Berg’s--but he was, to my mind, far and away their best caricaturist, a genius at capturing hilariously evocative facial expressions. (I still remember his drawing of a guy suddenly thinking of the witty rejoinder he should’ve thought of in traffic hours earlier, for me still the dictionary illustration of what the French call l’esprit de l’escalier). Humiliatingly, both his character’s facial expression and the gestures of his hands turn out to be much funnier and more elegantly expressive than my own, and make me embarrassed of my own fumbled effort to approximate them. I am once again reminded that my own work is but an inept imitation of the much more talented artists I admired as a child. Do all artists feel like this? Did Raphael secretly feel like nothing but a third-rate Leonardo?

My friend Jesse pointed out to me, “With Obama, you get the best of both worlds: a good President and a good cartoon character.” He is like the mirror-universe counterpart of George Bush (the current administration being the universe where everyone has goatees and wears daggers)—kind of guileless and jejune and game for anything, but, unlike George, essentially good rather than evil. Another friend of mine pointed out that I have somehow managed to make Obama look like me. (This suggestion troubles me. Am I projecting not only unreasonable hopes for the future of this country but my own self onto Obama? Or am I such a bad artist that, by default, I make everyone look like me?) I don’t necessarily intend to continue drawing political cartoons after January 20, 2009, but it’s good to know in any event that if I do, I’ll continue to have fodder for them even if the administration in charge is no longer incompetent and hateful.

I have, of course, in recent weeks been subscribing to the same fallacy as the rest of the media in assuming that Obama is effectively the Democratic nominee. But only those who are at ease being made fools of make confident predictions about the future. Hillary Clinton remains as grimly determined as ever that the Oval Office will be hers. (I thought last week's meaningless scandal over her R.F.K. remark was a lot of hysterical clucking over a comment grabbed gleefully out of context, but even so, one has to wonder whether that gaffe was not a Fredian slip, revealing a repressed wish that she thinks of herself as too nice a person to consciously entertain.) Do not count her out until she has been completely disintegrated into her component atoms, and those atoms dispersed across the galaxy beyond any hope of recombining. We are in, I suspect, for a long and strange summer.

*Also potentially influencing this panel: my current reading of Cannibalism: Human Aggression and Cultural Form by Eli Sagan, unavailable at the vaunted New York Public Library but on the shelves and circulating at my beloved Enoch Pratt back in Baltimore.

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