CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Je Suis CR2S, Cartoonists and Commentary

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WIMPY1By W.T. WIMPY HIROTO

IamWimpy. And is it too late – or blasphemous – to review Charlie Hebdo with some sense of sobriety? Amidst the hand-wringing and hand-holding, why the stunned shock? Retaliation in the name of Prophet Muhammad was as certain as the hue and anti-Muslim cry that followed.

So I ask, hesitantly, how would you react if a publication portrayed your chosen religion in a negative manner — for years? If it matters one whit, CR2S decries the deadly attacks in France; protecting the freedom of expression does not include murder. But shocked by the massacre? Not really. Nor moved by the mass demonstrations of solidarity that followed. (Nor, does it seem, was the White House.)

While joining the free world chorus against terrorism, the plight of the Muslim is a sad refrain. All become immediate threats because they have strange names and all look alike. Sound familiar? But hold on to your empathy, Ichiro, I don’t recall Buddhists (or Christians) shooting up the Los Angeles Times office when political cartoonist Bruce Russell was depicting Jappos as buck-toothed rodents – slant-eyed villains – stealthy saboteurs back in the ’40s.

Debating is not a strong point of mine. Gin rummy and Grey Goose maybe, but not editorializing. All I can say is hurrah for journalistic freedom and all that jazz, but je suis Japonais. In times of national hysteria, surprise, CR2S thinks back to 12/7, not 9/11.

I’d bet most of you haven’t seen any of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, nor the follow-up front page that sold seven million copies. The history of the brouhaha goes back many years. Let’s keep in mind, freedom of religion is not a one-way street; it’s a thoroughfare. [Heads Up: Fallout from a soon-to-be-released sensational Scientology investigative report will be the next religious explosion in the news.]

Political cartoonists are artists. Their talent is strictly pictorial, a thought-provoking drawing rather than words. Caricaturists caught the public eye during World War II, thanks to Bill Mauldin’s depiction of lowly GIs in miserable overseas combat. A post-war explosion of print journalism, primarily magazines, introduced a new art form: Political and social commentary in a single panel of provocative wit and wisdom. Drawings appeared in all daily newspapers and in every slick magazine, ranging from Saturday Evening Post to raunchy Playboy to prestigious New Yorker.

[CR2S had the good fortune to befriend the crème de la crème of Laguna Beach’s cartoonist colony (they’re all dead now, their profession is dying). While writers have a thesaurus to work with, cartoonists are boxed in. Within the confines of a single panel, they draw a story, a thought, a belief. Despite this unique talent, they were like rambunctious frat brothers; maybe a prerequisite to world. We’re talking about forty-something-year-olds eating sashimi and drinking booze at 10 o’clock in the morning. Assignments were submitted by mail in the ’70s. Which meant cartoonists on deadline met at The Ivy House, a favorite hangout by the Laguna Beach post office. Wild swings in conversation were the norm, as were physical and mental hijinks. (Example: December 6th was made into a day of celebration.) It is impossible to explain their world. I was merely a lucky invitee.]  

The unfortunate staff at Charlie Hebdo? I’m told they were among France’s best-known and most controversial – (in)famous for depicting Muhammad, which is forbidden in the Muslim world. Political cartoonists are envelope-pushers by nature. Even Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Conrad had an occasional submission vetoed by his editor. Charlie apparently had no such editorial constraint. Which resulted in cancellation by very violent means.

Conclusion? None. But food for thought, with champagne and apple pie.

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“American Sniper” is red hot at the box office as well as subject of heated debate: Chris Kyle, coward or hero? Michael Moore and Seth Rogen claim coward; Sarah Palin counters they are. No one is keeping score, but the current Clint Eastwood war epic has the look of a split decision in the ring of public opinion.

CR2S has an oblique slant: I hate guns, but everyone has the right to blah, blah, blah, I reluctantly agree. I believe the definition of a sniper is a sharpshooter with cover. Kyle was credited with 160 kills in four tours of duty. That’s a whole lot of dead people – and time in service. I’m not comfortable agreeing with Miz Palin (on anything), but I agree liberal bleeding hearts should serve before proclaiming to know the difference between hero and coward.

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Continuing this exercise in not making friends: Those spine-tingling flyovers, huge rippling flags and patriotic singing at sporting events cause goose bumps. Honoring and thanking our fighting men and women is a deserved tribute. But a different chill occurs when realizing this show of appreciation is for a mere 3/4% of our populace! Which means 99¼% is not in uniform. “O’er the home of the brave,” indeed!

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W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

 

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