CSotD: Looking Back Two Years

(Here is the CSotD from January 7, 2021, the morning after the coup attempt. I’ve resisted
the temptation to add notes and updates, since it should stand as a record of
how cartoonists rallied within 24 hours of the event.)

CSotD: Slouching Towards Bedlam

I was almost tempted to simply post Marco De Angelis (Cartoon Movement)‘s cartoon and leave it at that.

But I can’t demand cartoonists step up if I fail to.

Cartoonists faced a challenge yesterday. The riots called for a quick response and the quick response was “stunned,” which is not an answer.

The standard was set by — who else? — Bill Mauldin, who was at a press luncheon when it was announced that JFK had been assassinated, and who responded by phoning his editor to save him a spot in the Extra that would come out that afternoon, then raced back to the newsroom and produced his Lincoln Mourning classic in time for that special edition.

The cartoon itself is what, in retailing, is called a “category killer,” a term used when a store opens in a mall that makes it foolish for anyone else to try to sell the same thing there.

Mauldin’s piece killed the “weeping statue” category, as was more than proven nearly a half century later, on 9/11, when a flood of weeping Statues of Liberty fell flat.

De Angelis reaches for that familiar concept, but overcomes the cliché by depicting it as a terrifying assault rather than a sorrowful response, with the extinguished torch and smashed tablet emphasizing the destruction and loss.

And being paralyzed by horror is no excuse. A physician or nurse who drives by a roadside accident is expected to stop and pitch in, and a political cartoonist should show equal professionalism.

Beware the example of Ivan Turgenev’s “The Execution of Troppman,” in which he chronicles all but the actual execution of a noted murderer, turning aside and nearly fainting as the fatal blow is struck, his own sensitive horror being nothing compared to the revulsion of Dostoevsky and Hemingway over his failure to carry through the damn assignment.

Two assignments, then: One is to break through whatever bureaucratic deadline bullshit is stopping you, and the second is to come up with something worthy of the moment.

Some did well, some did less well, but all who did anything did better than those who never showed up, or who are sticking by their schedules.

De Angelis blames the mob, but Clay Bennett (CTFP) goes after the source, depicting Trump as having sent a clear message.

And, given that Trump summoned his Deplorables for a “WILD” event on that specific day, then personally urged them to head to the Capitol, there’s no need for symbolic frills.

BTW, I saw a few Nero cartoons, but Nero only ignored the fire: He didn’t kindle it.

Matt Davies (AMS) keeps the accusation in place but adds his revulsion, not, as Turgenev did, to emphasize his own sensitivity, but rather to make plain the widespread public disgust.

Ann Telnaes (WashPost) had, earlier in the week, depicted what has come to be called “The Sedition Caucus,” a cheerful piece of sardonic ridicule that (literally) stripped away their dignity at a moment when they were taking pride in their politics.

But she returned with fury when bad politics turned into violent sedition, depicting Dear Leader as a suicide bomber exploiting the loyalty of the Deplorables he has seduced into blind loyalty.

And a similar, even quicker, turnaround on the West Coast from David Horsey (Seattle Times), who put forth this comical, insulting commentary on the seditionists in the morning . . .

. . . but quickly followed the afternoon’s sudden developments with this more pointed accusation, once the process had gone from legislative disloyalty to actual, deliberate domestic terrorism.

And Matt Wuerker (Politico) also struck twice, first citing Samson, who purposely ended his own life in order to destroy his tormentors, though Samson did it in agony and righteousness, while Wuerker’s grinning giant simply does it as a spoiled child upsets a game board when he’s losing.

By the time you’re reading this, the level of self-destruction involved may be more clear, but, as I write, there have already been calls for resignation and impeachment, and it is reported there are high level discussions of the 25th Amendment, any of which would wipe that grin off Dear Leader’s face.

Wuerker then returned to the event to suggest the response of our nation’s rivals, all three of whom have been poorly handled by Dear Leader and may have maneuvered him into this destructive mode.

Now here’s a curious Juxtaposition of sorts: Joe Heller (Ind) shows Trump being paraded on the shoulders of his deplorables, insisting that America is, and belongs to, that mob.

Joe Biden offers a more hopeful view.

Twitter first disagreed with him, then blocked his account.

(Twitter has also put a 12-hour block on Trump’s account for inciting violence. Apparently, you may neither encourage division nor seek to heal it.)

And Nick Anderson (Tribune) brings the discussion full circle, joining De Angelis in focusing on the mob rather than on their leader, with an accusation of disloyalty that I think will do more to comfort the afflicted than to afflict the traitors, who proudly embrace both flags.

Proudly, that is, like the Proud Boys and their proud leader, as seen in Steve Sack’s mocking cartoon.

Reports suggest that Trump has stopped celebrating his sedition and may be descending into more diagnosable madness, and, as noted above, we may see leadership finally rise to the level of restraining, even removing him.

Cartoons about yesterday’s events, its controversies and its outcomes can now come at a more measured pace.

Meanwhile, it made me think of 1913, and the unplanned but violent attacks on the Women’s Pageant in Washington.

The police failed to step in to protect the marchers from the mob; It was a military contingent in town for the Inauguration that saved the women — some of whom ended up hospitalized — from further assaults.

H.R. Manz criticized Washington Police Chief Richard Sylvester, who was charged for his dereliction of duty and resigned. We’ll see if cartoons and events mirror that outcome this time around.

More important, as Billy de Beck predicted, public outrage over the affair gave the Woman’s Suffrage Movement a significant boost, and, though it took seven more years, the Amendment was ratified and the balance of power shifted.

We’ll also see how things work out for better or worse — in cartoons and in actual politics — for our current situation.

And this note about today’s headline: I’m well aware that “bedlam” is derived from St Mary of Bethlehem, a London lunatic asylum. I’m pretty sure W.B. Yeats knew it as well.

In any case, here we are.