CSotD: When it all comes down to dust

Let me start the day by declaring that I don’t like most of these cartoons very much, but it’s not my job to like cartoons.

Ed Hall’s take offers a good starting point, however, and it’s also not his job to be liked.

This is a play on sentiment, dead children being an obvious tug at the heartstrings. But that’s hardly a fault: We should be touched and repulsed and horrified and grief-stricken at the thought of children killed by the actions of adults.

As a purely pacifistic argument, it is both powerful and valid, though I don’t know that Hall is a dedicated pacifist. But it’s hardly necessary to be a pacifist to object, both to the deaths of children and to those deaths being dismissed as collateral damage.

My problem with the cartoon is, rather, to the implication that “They both do it,” which is true but, at best, unpersuasive and, at worst, ducks some important questions.

It’s nice when a war consists of opposing military forces lining up on a field and attacking each other, but wars have almost always involved the civilian population and, thus, children, either as intentional victims or “collateral damage.”

But I also don’t know how many wars have involved two equally evil commanders, thus how often it is valid to blame both sides equally, unless you are a pure pacifist who would rather die than resist violence with violence.

A lovely bit of philosophy that does nothing for the dead children of Gaza and Israel.


A different type of philosophy is evident in Andy Marlette (Creators)’s cartoon, based on the notion of the “Holy Land” as a place, the sign states, where you might expect to find a haven of peace, which it clearly is not.

But the “religious war” aspect here is a tangled one, because property and civil rights have a great deal more to do with the immediate conflict, even if one party feels that God is not only on their side but notarized the Deed.

Still, there are plenty of wars in which the two sides are of different religions, and it often intensifies things but is rarely the proximate cause, nor is it here.


Martyn Turner makes the accusation in a more pointed, more specific manner, because he narrows “them both” down to the leadership, bringing in the children as anonymous graves, neither Arab nor Jew.

This neatly, and appropriately, leaves out the adult followers of both leaders, the “Universal Soldiers” without whom all the killing can’t go on. Buffy Ste. Marie’s song is one of pacifism, and makes a good point on that level, but the fact is leaders are leaders because they have followers.

What makes this point particularly interesting is that both leaders — Netanyahu specifically, Hamas more generally — have been struggling to solidify their leadership and the war seems an attempt by both of them to strengthen their political power.

Philosophy hopes they will both be rejected.

History suggests they won’t.


Juxtaposition of the Day #1

(Alan Moir, Cartoon Arts)


(Heng, Cartoon Arts)

Meanwhile, this pair of observers asks us — the spectators — to demand more of our own leadership.

The United Nations was formed to stop this sort of thing, but this isn’t the first time it has proven to be, as Moir depicts it, a toothless, shivering dog. We’ve seen blue helmets here and there over the years, but mostly in little brushfires, not in major conflagrations.

A large part of the reason is that, as Heng suggests, one or more of the major parties becomes blind when powerful interests are involved, as in Yemen.

Now, he says, Biden is making an effort not to see, though perhaps the cartoon was drawn before our latest shipment of weapons to Israel surfaced in the news.

If Biden wants to maintain his fragile hold on Congress, he may want to lower that mask and perhaps open his ears as well.

I’m not sure there’s a position he can take, however, that will do anything for the Israelis and Arabs without utterly destroying his own domestic standing.

Philosophically, when pragmatic choices fail, a good man makes the moral choice, but Biden is already being compared by his political enemies to Jimmy Carter, and we see where Christian principles got that poor sod.


Juxtaposition of Cartoons I Wouldn’t Have Drawn

(Rob Rogers – Counterpoint)



(Steve Benson – Creators)

The great sin of Americans in general and American political cartoonists in particular is their isolation, their focus on their own navels, whatever else may be happening in the world.

In this case, both cartoonists have looked at the conflict and depicted it in American terms, going for a pair of the most powerful images in our recent history.

It’s not a matter of going after a spider with a meat ax, because the conflict does, indeed, matter, and you can’t — shouldn’t — dismiss it as something happening somewhere else. Not only is that immoral but the political implications do reach us.

And neither cartoonist plays the “on the other hand but on the other” card, which is to be admired. They are paid to have opinions and to make judgments, after all.

Boy, they sure did.

I’d give Rogers higher grades because there is a clear imbalance of power, but also because Netanyahu is having trouble not only forming a government but simply staying out of jail on corruption charges, so portraying him as a bully in this case is a defensible point of view, whether you agree or not.

Benson has a more attenuated point to make, because Gaza and Hamas are not, themselves, in any position to bring down the Israeli state. You can trace their support back to other governments that would like to see Israel fall, but even that threat is somewhat theoretical, because, while those opponents may yell “Death to Israel,” there is a level of chest-beating and hot air in their rhetoric that has little application in the present conflict.


This is the point in the blog where I come up with a conclusion, but I haven’t got one.

Instead, here’s a story from before the Book was divided:


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