CSotD: Welcome Back to Normal

So I guess this was a good idea …

(Bill Bramhall)

I started to feature all 10 of the “Back to Normal” cartoons that popped up on my morning tour, but it felt like I’d be pushing the edges of fair use unless I made substantive critical commentary on each one.

And they’re each pretty good, but they’re all pretty much the same.

Bramhall gets featured by virtue of alphabetical order, but here are links to the others and you might find nuances in one that aren’t in the others, because these are all good cartoonists.

Though they may be a little embarrassed at the moment by this rare double Yahtzee:

(JD Crowe – AMG)

(Phil Hands – AMS)

(Joe Heller)

(Joe Wos)

(Kevin Necessary – AMS)

(Marc Murphy)

(Benjamin Slyngstad)

(Jeff Stahler – AMS)

(Dave Whamond – Cagle)

The general rule is that, if an idea comes to you quickly, it’s probably going to come to a lot of other cartoonists just as quickly. It’s how we ended up with dozens of weeping Statues of Liberty on 9/12.

That was obvious, cheap sentiment done on the fly, but this is different: “Back to normal” genuinely sums up our feeling of exhaustion over a problem we should be able to solve but haven’t.

After all, when I discussed the Boulder shootings yesterday, I described the TV coverage as

another of those sessions where reporters tap dance and anchors repeat what we already know and they interview random experts who don’t know anything, while we wait to find out what the hell happened this time.

“Here we go again” is just a variation on “back to normal.”

And the fact that we are getting Covid largely under control makes it worth pointing out that we can solve problems if we have a will to do so.

It’s only normal because we let it be normal.


Several cartoonists, including Ward Sutton, re-posted cartoons they had done in the past on the topic, pointing out the sense of futility they had about it.

Which makes the point that it’s a case of “back to normal,” but you’re preaching to the choir of your existing fans.

The challenge is to get the message into newspapers where it may stir some people who aren’t already on the bus, and, given the number of times you’ve already made the point, it means struggling to find something fresh to say that nine other cartoonists aren’t also saying.


RJ Matson makes the point through some dark humor, and he packs a lot into this, including the “elected officials say” caption, which lays the blame on congressional inaction.

This kind of straight-faced parody runs the risk of whooshing over the heads of readers, but if you could see the angry emails cartoonists get you’d realize that there is no concept so obvious and straightforward that it won’t fly over the heads of some people. You can’t let that govern you.

You do have to try to anticipate how a cartoon will be misread, however.

If they just don’t get it, well, that’s life.

But if they see a message you didn’t intend, that’s different.

For instance, when I first read this commentary from David Cohen, I thought “oh … wait … ” was a reaction to the fact that the shooter in the Boulder murders was a Syrian immigrant.

However, although he posted this to the AAEC site today, I’m not sure it isn’t purely a reaction to the Atlanta shootings, with “oh … wait … ” meaning that the stereotype of the angry white male killer is, in fact, accurate.

Subtlety is fine, but clarity matters.


The Syrian thing has really messed up everybody, BTW, and reminds me of this Chan Lowe cartoon from the Boston Marathon bombings, in which, yeah, they were Muslims.

So it’s a chance for conservatives to dismiss it as more examples of Muslim terror, while white Social Justice Warriors are bending themselves into pretzels, pointing out that he looked white and that’s why the police didn’t kill him.

Which, given that they shot him, relies on a belief that the Lone Ranger could shoot the gun right out of the bad guy’s hand.


But shooting range targets don’t even have legs.

Police aim for the center, and the fact that he was hit in the leg is about inaccuracy in an active firefight, not a sign of merciful intent.

The other problem with him being Syrian is that it adds a potential explanation for why a crazy person did a crazy thing.

Family members — who are also Syrian but did not shoot up any grocery stores — report that he was paranoid and deeply disturbed, but so was the guy in Atlanta and we’ve already declared that he wanted to kill Asians or maybe women or possibly sex workers or something, but that crazy is off the list.

For the record, granted, an insanity defense generally rests on not knowing what you did was wrong. You don’t see it very often: It takes a really good lawyer and a really twisted psyche.

Still, well-adjusted people don’t shoot up grocery stores or massage parlors.

The question, then, is how crazy do you have to be before it turns up on your firearms background check, which can be about your sanity or about the quality of those background checks.


Ed Hall points out that it can be easier to buy a gun than to register to vote, and, while Georgia is a stunning example at the moment, we’re going to start seeing this in more places.


But Jack Ohman (WPWG) captures the problem we really need to attack if we want mass murder to stop being normal.

If Covid had a Superpac and a multi-million dollar organization lobbying on its behalf, we wouldn’t have funded vaccine development or, certainly, distribution of free shots.

It’s not about hating Asians or women or sex workers or people who go to concerts in Las Vegas or children in schools or infidels or even about being crazy.

It’s about money in politics.

Fixing that would fix more than gun violence, but it could certainly fix gun violence.

For now, though, the guy in this song is what constitutes “normal”:


3 thoughts on “CSotD: Welcome Back to Normal

  1. from my point of view I knew a more cartoonist had to have the same idea but because I am not tied to a syndicate for my editorial stuff I can be pretty nimble about drawing it and getting it posted quickly. So I think I was just hoping I would beat them to the punch! I don’t really consider myself much of an editorial cartoonist, it’s an outlet for me to express my outrage and opinions, so I am honored to be included in this batch of great editorial cartoonists even if it an inauspicious badge of honor, I’ll wear it just the same! and of course always delighted to be mentioned in the Daily Cartoonists!

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