Thursday, May 2, 2013

Michael Ramirez also go boom!

Every so often an editorial cartoon educates and enlightens me, which happened with Michael Ramirez' 'toon this week, above.

Though I had no idea the topic, the visual metaphor is lightning quick despite its devastating weight.

(By the way, it's so hard to keep track of what's going in the world, and it gets worse every day even as information builds to a torrent, isn't it? I blame myself almost entirely, succumbing to the beguiling filters and baffles of irrelevant TV and celebrity news, ignoring 10 world events for the sensationalism of one. What news I manage to pay attention dismays and disorients me.)

I had to find out what the hell Ramirez was talking about — to the Internet, Batman!

Gosnell is Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia doctor on trial facing charges of killing babies born alive, and of killing a woman by a drug overdose during an abortion. The jury is deliberating after six weeks of testimony.

Prosecutors say Gosnell delivered babies and then snipped their spinal cords because he didn't know how to perform late-term abortions, while Gosnell's attorney says the doctor performed abortions while the fetuses were in the womb. Gosnell's attorney said the woman died instead from unforeseen circumstances.

A two-time Pulitzer winner, Ramirez 'toons for Investors Business Daily; such is the state of our traditional newspapers that a top award winning cartoonist would now work in the narrow margins of specialty journalism, seen online more than in print.

Ramirez runs far to the right of my opinions, but he wins me by his mastery of art; I look at his stuff even though I know eight times out of 10 it's gonna be about anything-Obama-does-is-bad-because-he's-not-the-second-coming-of-George-W.-Bush.

Few are better than Ramirez at taking advantage of better printing and digital dissemination. The painting effects he applies to his black line art amplify rather than muddy the image, are inextricably woven into the picture. Note that he has even painted the shadow of the barbed wire on the children's faces.

This one surprised me; this one lured me in the way I'd find it impossible to avert my eyes from a car wreck, wondering frantically what happened, what is what.

Right away I saw the visual metaphor for the sign above the gates at Auschwitz, the one promising prisoners Arbeit Macht Frei — work will make you free.

Then I saw the doors to the ovens, the analogy that the babies Gosnell allegedly killed were disposed of dispassionately as so many Jews and other threats to the Nazi state. Then I saw the children; then the shapes (window hatches?) within the ovens, together with the openings forming haunted eyes; I'm guessing it's intentional, maybe even a spectral caricature of the bespectacled Dr. Gosnell.

This cartoon will receive letters of damnation and praise and threats and the usual calls for Ramirez' firing, as happened when last week The Sacramento Bee's Jack Ohman blamed Texas' lax regulation on the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion. Or maybe not; maybe his readership is largely limited to the choir.

Here Ramirez unleashes all the power of his pen, skewering me in the gut. His 'toon is a too-sharp mirror, making me reflect and question myself.

I believe in a woman's right to choose. I also believe in the power of education to make the best of that choice. I hear some of you: How could I have lived this long so naive, eyes half-closed to realities?

If Ramirez' statement railed against this trial alone, it would be an outrageous stretch, equating the Nazi mass extermination with, if the jury convicts, a callous if not miscast and misguided doctor. Given Ramirez' long documentation, though, I'd say he is condemning all abortion, at least late-term abortions.

Still, it's outrageous and raw, and Ramirez did his job expertly. He got my attention. He taught me something. The image lodges uncomfortably in my conscience.

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