Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hope as a four-letter word

How fascinating is this week's work by World's Best Editorial Cartoonist Pat Oliphant? Let me count the ways:
(Fanboys and girls of editorial cartoons — ye tiny but zealous lot — commence salivation …)
1. It's vintage Pat Oliphant:
Artistically, it's the cartoonist, two or three bottles of ink and a brush, and get outta the way! The result: A maelstrom of lines and squiggles and scribbles and scratches and the blackest blacks and the most delicate and telling of details, gelling into a complex serving of cold gall that few besides Oliphant can pull off.
Politically, it's Oliphant in the dark recess of his citizen heart.

Cynics could say Oliphant, the elder statesman of great cartoonists at 77, simply wanted an excuse to draw the villains of the Golden Age of editorial cartoons; I know it's a trope among several top cartoonists who joke they wish they had Nixon to kick around some more.

But here Oliphant unearths this lot for grave purpose. In fact, I think this cartoon is a personal appeal to President Obama; he's not trying to mess with the minds of the shrinking op-ed reading public; he's trying to mess with the president.

At heart, Oliphant is a patriot who regards his work as duty, ever vigilant to our country's flaws, ever hopeful that we do what we can to mend those flaws.

This cartoon suggests to me that Oliphant is about to give up hope in the president — as I am about to — dismayed that rather than ushering in change and progress and rescue of the Constitution, Obama instead carries on more of the same opaque imperialism he replaced, only moreso.

Oliphant has penned one (last?) wake-up call. Will President Obama see it from Senegal, where he's traveling?

Oliphant has been moving toward this statement for a while. Shortly before calling Obama out as just another crony, he produced this one:
Completely devoid of laugh lines, this cartoon is simply a severe interrogation, questioning President Obama's grasp of his office. It is cold and hard and cutting. Oliphant is fed up.

2. J. Edgar is wearing high heels. An Oliphant never forgets, and never foregoes a chance to pierce with his fiercest stereotypes.

3. It's raw art, no attempt made to erase pencil lines or to scan and Photoshop®™© it for clean clean contrast. It's as if the cartoon missed a step toward reproduction, as if Oliphant or an assistant rushed it to dissemination. It's full of smudges and extraneous pencil lines, reminding me of editorial cartoons I've seen in museum exhibits, warty and coated in Wite-Out™® blobs to hide mistakes from the press; we've been let in to where the wizard works the levers.


So appropos of nothing you'll miss it: Suppose California voters passed a proposition outlawing interracial marriage. You'd be horrified, or should be. But say it passed anyway, and proposition supporters argue (without any proof) that children deserve to be raised by a mom and a dad of the same color, that parents of different races will just not provide the correct upbringing required. Then let's say the governor and the attorney general decide that the proposition, though approved by voters, violates the Constitutional protections for all under the law, and do not support it.

Then say U.S. Supreme Court decides that since the governor and California attorney general will not defend the proposition, there's nothing to decide on and the proposition has no merit. Then say the proposition's supporters decry the Supreme Court's decision, saying the court has taken away our vote. Wouldn't you counter that even though the majority of voters approved the measure, it's still blatant discrimination and violates the Constitution? Wouldn't you? (The answer is yes.)

The same for the Supreme Court's take Wednesday on Proposition 8, which would restrict marriage to between a man and a woman. Now I'm hearing the same arguments, that the high court has taken away our vote. Ah, the essential barely fathomable beauty of our democracy: That just because most people may vote for clear discrimination against those they find different or loathsome, checks and balances protect us from our stupid selves.

Moreso utterly appropos: Why do people take pictures of the foods they're about to eat and post them on facebook, et. al? You could explain it to me, but it won't make any less silly.

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