Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Updated 10/15/08


Note skippable by all but my fellow (or aspiring) artists: As is pretty much S.O.P with me I put off doing anything or even thinking about this cartoon until the last possible minute. I was utterly uninspired this week, sick of the presidential election, which now feels like it’s been going on since I was about seventeen, out of ideas about the economy, which I can’t begin to pretend to understand, and feeling underappreciated and like cartoons are kind of a big dead end and not worth it. It was going to be one of those weeks where I finally just have to break down and draw my least unfunny idea and turn in a cartoon I know is only a C+ effort. I hate those weeks. On Sunday, the day when I absolutely have to draw the cartoon, no putting it off any longer, I sat at my desk feeling wretched until early afternoon, when I finally decided, you know what, fuck it, I might as well admit that I’m not doing anything and instead of sitting here worrying about not working, just go for a bike ride instead. So that is what I did. I took my bike on the subway and went for a ride around Central Park. It was a beautiful Indian Summer day in New York. And on the subway ride home, as I was pleasantly tired out and thinking about nothing at all, the whole cartoon came to me effortlessly, like it always does. I started off the working process feeling like a burned-out failure and ended up a double bacon genius burger. When this happens it feels like a marble dropping down through the ramps and grooves in one of those labyrinthine puzzles--everything just falls inevitably exactly where it should. You just have to keep the pathways clear.


Artist's Statement

This cartoon is completely unfair to John McCain, who, to his credit, has specifically ordered his campaign to refrain from raising the whole Reverend Wright business for fear of appearing to use racial divisions as a wedge. However: John McCain in blackface? How could you think that up and not draw it? I do try to be fair, but when you are cursed with a puerile and inventive mind you sometimes come up with shit you just gotta draw no matter how wrong it is.

(Also unfair: the last panel making a joke at the expense of McCain’s age and unfamiliarity with newfangled technology. Come to think of it this is not only too easy, a gag beneath my general standard of humor, better left to the kinds of mainstream editorial cartoonists who win Pulitzers—“Wow, that McCain, he’s sure old!”--but also blatantly hypocritical, since I myself could care less about all that shit the kids are into like iPods and Twitter and Wii. I'm even thinking of ditching my cell phone, since they're expensive and intrusive and they don't work. I only ended up drawing this panel because it had a certain rhythmic inevitability to it and allowed me to refer to poor H.A.L. 9000.)

My ex-Marine neighbor down at my Undisclosed Location has been in the know about this Bill Ayers thing for some time now (he’s on the other side of the political fence from me, and, like me, tends to access news sources that confirm his already-existing worldview, so that he and I basically inhabit separate, parallel informational universes) and he’s been wondering why the Republicans haven’t been making a bigger deal of it. My own guess is: because it’s just not that big a deal. It’s desperate. This lame harping on Obama’s tenuous connection to a long-ago “domestic terrorist” (which isn’t an inaccurate term but is sort of anachronistic—back in the day they called them “militant radicals”), and trying to morph that into some mental image of Obama playing backgammon with Osama, is an indicator of the paucity of dirt there is to be dug up on Obama. This is the one measly metatarsal they could find way at the back of his closet? As Matt Taibbi writes, “We've become trained to look for the man behind the mask, for in real life there is no one whose emotional life is confined to a lifelong, passionate love for his high school sweetheart wife and their two children, an undying appreciation for the sacrifice of soldiers, awe before the flag and concern for the future of the middle class.” […] But I'm not sure there is a mask when it comes to Barack Obama. It sounds crazy, but he might actually be this guy, this couldn't-possibly-exist guy, inside and out.”

There really are emails going around warning that Obama is the Antichrist. This email’s most compelling argument is that the book of Revelation describes the Antichrist as a man in his forties who is Muslim, which would indeed be uncanny if a.) Obama were a Muslim and b.) this were true. But in fact it isn’t. The Revelation of St. John was composed either 68 or 95 AD (apparently a big biblical-scholarship controversy) and Mohammed was born in 570 AD, so you figure it out. Obama also differs from the “Beast” described in Revelation in a number of significant respects, such as having only one head. He is somewhat similar to the Antichrist in the Left Behind books, which have perhaps become canonical in certain circles, in that he is charismatic and speaks more than one language, always a suspect sign among Godfearing folk. About the most striking similarity between Obama and the Antichrist is that they are both very popular. (I'd wanted to work in some reference here to the Book of Mormon, which as I once learned in a hotel room describes a number of evil people as being being afflicted by God with “a skin of blackness” but regrettably it just didn’t seem pertinent.)

But the “terrorist” business is harder to dismiss as a figment of the dingbat fringe—it’s an effort to associate Obama with something subversive, anti-American, foreign, dark… After all, he was born abroad, educated at Muslim schools. All these things seem suspect and sinister to dumb whitebread Wal-Mart Americans who’ve only ever left the country in Epcot Center--the same people who can't quite put their fingers on the indefinable something they just don't trust about Obama. These inuendos go about as far toward racism as they can without speaking the forbidden n-word, sort of like horny abstinent teens who've vowed to remain technically virgins 'til marriage but have decided anal doesn't count. It reminds me of the climactic scene from Robert Stone’s prescient first novel, Hall of Mirrors, in which a right-wing radio station sponsors a rally that (intentionally) turns into a race riot, during which a con-artist clergyman delivers a crazed and furious prayer that ends with his frenziedly invoking the word “black” or “blackness” half a dozen times. (Unfortunately my copy of the book is back at the Undisclosed Location but if I can track this passage down I'll quote it here later--it is amazing and hilarious.) These tactics seem to be roiling up the noisome waters at the very bottom of the Republican base, where fat brainless open-mawed things thrive on a diet of pure shit. Probably most of you have heard about the disturbing things being hollered out by mobs at McCain/Palin rallies, things like: “Traitor!” “Kill him!” “Off with his head!” A black cameraman was called “boy.” Things are getting ugly.

So on the other hand, fuck John McCain—he deserves my unfairness. McCain was himself the victim of a racist smear campaign at the hands of the conscienceless George Bush in the ’00 primary in South Carolina, where folks still go for that sort of thing,* and he has now hired some of the same thuggish campaign managers who slandered him then to deploy the same sorts of tactics against Obama. So now we’re seeing the old scummy tricks like repeating lies about Obama’s record, twisting his words into sound-bite scandals, pointedly using his villainous middle name, and these implications that he’s secretly some sort of Muslim/terrorist/negro. McCain isn't a racist, but he’s apparently not above exploiting racism if it’ll get him enough votes to win this thing. A politician with a shot at the Presidency, as Hunter Thompson described it, “is like a bull elk in rut season.” He loses all dignity, all integrity, he'll do anything, he can think of nothing but the Prize. It’s a sorry thing to see a man forfeit his honor for glory. The finest thing McCain could do now would be to call off his slavering pit bull and run a decent, genial campaign like Bob Dole’s in ‘96, who considered having been nominated by his party the highest honor of his life. I always admired Dole for saying, in one of his debates: “If you hate, I don’t want your vote.”

With less than a month now to go before election Day and the country in a shambles, Obama is ahead in all the polls and even I am cautiously, against my better judgment, starting to hope that maybe, just this once, the shitheads will not win. Of course I’ve hoped this several times before, only to be sucker-punched and laughed at by the Shithead Nation. Which could well happen again if enough people secretly turn out to be racists behind the electoral booth curtain. Even if Obama does win, it still feels like a depressing confirmation of one’s most cynical and misanthropic suspicions that things finally had to get this bad—the country in ruin, mired in two losing wars and on the brink of a global Great Depression--before people would grudgingly consent to vote for someone intelligent for a change. It’s hard to believe we might actually have someone smart running the country again; as my friend Megan said, “It seems almost bizarre.” No doubt as soon as we’re at peace and running a surplus again the shitheads will vote for another hawkish, tax-cutting demagogue, like an alcoholic with a few months’ sobriety under his belt who decides that things are going so well that a coupla beers aren’t going to hurt anything.


*For you youngsters, the Bush campaign made phone calls implying that McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child. In fact he and his wife had adopted a girl from Bangladesh. This is the so-called “genius” of Republican campaigning as perfected by the subhuman Karl Rove; find the very best, most unassailable thing about your opponent and vilify it, turn it into a thing of shame.


Our donation button directly below.


BACK TO The Pain Homepage