Tuesday, July 03, 2001

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad...Tea Party?

This cartoon was recently posted over at an animation site that I frequent, called CartoonBrew.
Not surprisingly, the content of the cartoon drew more comment than the animation itself. In fact it has drawn a flurry of comments both positive and negative. I myself comment a couple times- perhaps at too much length- in an attempt to give a bit of balance to the cartoon's portrayal of all righties as "Mad Teabagging Nutjobs."
You can browse through that string of comments or not as you like, but I'd be just as interested to hear your thoughts on the cartoon as on any of the discussion that went on in the comment threads over there at The Brew.

Here are my thoughts in summary:

The Good-
1) Visually this is a very nice rendering of the classic Alice in Wonderland characters, in spite of the limitation of the medium and budget.
2) Alice in Wonderland was both a clever and natural choice for a satire of the Tea Party political movement.
3) the vocal performances were a nice imitation of the original brilliant characterizations of Ed Wynn, Jerry Colonna, et al.
4) Several points have varying degrees of validity, for example, the depiction of many conservatives' doggedly (bulldoggedly?) rabid devotion to Sarah Palin. personally, I'm kind of torn when it comes to her. Similarly the "fox news"/Glenn Beck fandom among republicans and tea party devotees was apty portrayed. Personally, I don't ever watch Fox News, nor am I really a Glenn Beck fan. I think he's a man of passion, and sometimes he says things i agree with, but he's far too prone to hyperbole for me. The line "our country has been take over by a RAGING SOCIALIST" was pretty funny to me.
I'm really kind of sick of the constant comparisons with Hitler, Nazis, Stalin and Communism that come from both the Right and the Left. Why do we constantly feel it necessary to characterize our political opponents to such a gross degree on every issue?
5) "Alice" asks a good question, "why can't we just have an intelligent discussion about this?" This is question that would be good to ask of those on both sides of the aisle.

The Meh-
1) perfunctory "Teabagging" reference. Why do people insist of using this derrogatory term? Using "they said it first" as an excuse for crass language is unacceptable. Even if some little conservative grandma was the first person to innocently burble the phrase, I don't care who said it first, repeating the demeaning label only makes you sound stupid. hypocritical.
2) "we make signs." mkay, a bit disingenuous. Apparently lefties never protest, or don't use signs when they do.
3) there is a subtle bit where the Mad Hatter leafs through a stack of money he pulls out of a cup of tea, saying, "tea, don't mind if I do!" I'm not sure what the implication was, but there are at least a couple ways it might be interpreted- suggesting that tea partiers are actually "wealthy fat cats" or that they are "astroturf" protestors paid to rally by corporate interests. neither of these is accurate, and the latter could be considered rather unctuous especially when said by folks who do things like this.
4) The simplistic suggestion that anyone who attends a tea party or rallies against liberal agenda is "off their rocker" reminds me of one of the main reasons why I decided to fade from the editorial cartooning career after 3 years of doing it for the college paper-- political cartoons in general have a tendency to over-simplify complex issues, and try to sum up and settle entire debates with a single image. The best political cartoons don't try to sum up, but to provoke a response or spur to action. In that sense, this cartoon was a success, as it has certainly stoked the flame of debate. but instead of debating issues, we're arguing IQ levels. Just saying "well, you're stupid" isn't an argument, it's an ad hominem attack, and not good or fair debate technique.
5) "Facts!?" The suggestion that tea party followers blatantly ignore facts is rather silly indeed. There are plenty of facts to go around, and plenty of people ignoring facts in favor of feelings.

Let's face it- the tea party movement isn't perfect. but there was more that could have been done with this satire- not just in more pointed and accurate depiction of the dangerous dogma traps that we can fall into, but also in being constructive, and promoting an understanding and a sharing of ideas rather than merely caricaturing and discounting the opinions of those on the right.

I'd much rather puzzle through the compexities of an issue and try to understand it from many perspectives than to simply "walk a party line." Surely we're not all SUCH polar opposites? Instead of labeling each other as The Enemy or just as morons, why can't we come together and unite where there is common ground and work out from there?
What are your thoughts?

Dear Anonymous

Recently I received an anonymous comment on one of my old posts, not surprisingly one which was political in nature. Evidently the person was either trawling through old posts or else stumbled on it by accident from somewhere else. Anyways, here's what he said:

Cause that 50 million without health care don't count do they? I think any of Americas founding fathers would be appalled at the sate of affairs America has slipped into. A society that is no longer about the community but just focused on individual gain.

A more accurate depiction of the situation would be Obama and Uncle Sam holding hands. Unless you see true American Patriotisim as killing your fellow citizens for corprate gain.
This is an entirely valid point of view, regardless of whether I agree or disagree. So why does this poster feel the need to hide behind a mask of anonymity? Anonymous criticism is like yelling "liar" during the State of the Union address, or badmouthing the boss in Rolling Stone- truth or not, it's out of order.
Anyone who really knows me will be aware that I welcome criticism; but I also feel it should be common courtesy to let me know who I'm talking to. I know some people are worried about protecting their identities on "Teh internets, " but simply providing a first name will show me you're at least willing to sign off on the things you say. Anyway, it's not like I'm going to hunt you down like some kind of Jihad Joe. Believe it or not, I'm actually a pretty friendly guy!

I feel that this one of the great things that sets us apart as a nation is our ability to disagree and to converse rationally about our differences without blowing each other's heads off! In fact, Reason is a truly Divine gift, which helps to set us apart us from the animals. So why can't we use it, and be willing to engage one another in intelligent discussion? to quote Jefferson, from his first inaugural address, "Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it."

Anyways, my point is this- I'm going to make it a rule that comments come with a name attached. Any anonymous comments, regardless of their intellectual merits, will be deleted.
Just give me a name and we'll talk! :-) "Come, let us reason together."

If mr anonymous had just given a name, it would have shown a willingness to discuss the points he's made- an openness to getting to understand one another. Let's say his name was Steve- then maybe I could have responded, something like this:
Hey, Steve, thanks for commenting, I appreciate the feedback!
I believe the problem with the Health Care bill is that the bill does nothing to help those "50 million," but only aggravates the problem. Please don't mischaracterize my distaste for the bill as apathy toward those without insurance. I simply think that instead of government-run plans and madates for people to be required to buy insurance, we should instead focus on job creation in the face of the continued ballooning of unemployment, despite the "stimulus" bill, because the problem will be lessens naturally if more people have jobs that either supply insurance or at least provide people with income to be able to purchase insurance for themselves, which would in turn relieve the government (and by extension, american taxpayers) of that extra financial burden.

I would love to be able to draw the cartoon you describe, but
1) it wouldn't be a very funny cartoon, except perhaps in the sense that it is kind of absurd, and
2) only 49% of americans would agree with the depiction, according to the latest gallop polls.

What are your thought on the unemployment problem? Do you think fixing that would help to alleviate the insurance problems we are facing?
And from there we might have continued to work together toward a healthy interaction and intellectual exchange. Oh, and just to make it easy on you guys, I'll let you in on a little secret: 99.9% of the things I post on this blog are completely apolitical, with little or no moral ambiguity. so, see you around, and hope to hear from you!
Hopefully, I'll have some new comics to post soon.

But until then, just to cleanse the distaste of political discourse from my palate and yours, here's a picture of a cute fluffy bunny:

See, even the Rabbit hates politics!