Recently I posted a couple cartoons on the internet and it made me think I ought to explain where I’m coming from politically; cartoons are great for expressing a single thought, not so great at explaining an entire philosophy.
Let’s start with what happens when I turn on my TV.
Whenever I fire up the flat screen it starts out on the Government Channel and even though I’m trying to get it off my TV as fast as possible I still manage to catch a few moments of our local government at work.
Which brings up a question:
Who watches someone drone on about a zoning change in a committee meeting with an audience of three people who appear to be suffering from an overdose of Nyquil and thinks, “Man, I got to get in on that”?
That is not a normal reaction.
Most intelligent people I know avoid meetings like the plague because they’re boring and rarely accomplish anything besides allowing a manager to say he or she held a meeting.
More than once I’ve been asked if I ever considered running for public office and the answer is not only no, it’s hell no. I might enjoy kissing babies as long as they didn’t drool too much, but want no part of a day chock-full of meetings.
I enjoy the sound of my own voice as long as I’ve got a Bud Light in one hand and a shot of Crown Royal in the other and I’m telling you a story about something stupid a family member did, but I’m guessing if the nation tuned in to an address from the Oval Office and the Resolute Desk was littered with empty beer bottles and shot glasses it might be cause for concern or grounds for impeachment.
Bottom line: someone who enjoys the sound of their own voice so much they’d go into politics just to hear it worries me.
My right to swing my arm ends where your nose begins
If we’re all going to get along – something we haven’t been very good at lately – clearly there have to be some accepted limitations on our behavior: we should stop for red lights and not murder anyone afterwards.
But the list of limitations should be much shorter than it is and, if possible, it should be consistent.
For instance: I never understood why it was OK for me to drink alcohol and not OK for someone else to smoke marijuana.
You can play the extrapolation game – marijuana might lead to harder drugs – but as a young man I know fairly well recently said: nobody smokes weed and then decides to jump in their car and go score some crack. That’s way too ambitious for someone who spent the last 20 minutes sucking on a bong.
As he put it: “Marijuana is not a gateway drug to harder drugs; it’s a gateway drug to Taco Bell.”
Alcohol – my drug of choice – has done way more damage to this country than marijuana ever will and yet outlawing alcohol didn’t work. You can put someone in a straitjacket, hang them upside down in the deepest, darkest prison cell, throw away the key and by the end of the week they’ll figure out a way to make Jailhouse Wine and get hammered.
As a rule of thumb, people usually figure out a way to get what they want.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to stop them if what they want is to set fire to a neighbor, but we need to think about how much effort we’re willing to spend to stop people from doing things that only affect the people doing it.
There are things I think we can all agree on – armed robbery should be a crime unless the victim is a lawyer who advertises on TV – but after the basics I think people should get to make up their own mind about what they believe and how they want to live.
I’m not a big fan of people who think they know what’s right for them and then want to impose their beliefs on others.
All this might sound odd coming from a guy who expressed his opinions in a newspaper six days a week, but I never felt like I was telling readers what they should think; I was telling them what I thought. If they found that persuasive, great; if not, other people have a right to their opinion.
You get to make your choices; I get to make mine.
Both sides now
Some people think a cartoonist should draw cartoons on both sides of an issue to balance things out, but it doesn’t work that way.
When Philadelphia Inquirer political cartoonist Tony Auth was asked why his cartoons were so one-sided, he asked if WWII was still going on would his critics expect him to draw a few pro-Hitler cartoons.
(BTW: Saying that the first one to bring up Hitler loses the argument is bullshit and is usually said by people who lost an argument and realize they failed to bring up Hitler soon enough.)
As Tony pointed out, balance on an editorial page was not achieved by one person taking both sides of an issue – although God knows some editorial writers try – it was achieved by allowing both sides to have their say.
In my own case I was fine with being labeled a liberal and in most cases I was, but if a Democratic president was going to start banging a White House intern I wasn’t going to ignore that.
Way too many good cartoon possibilities.
Why nothing ever seems to get fixed
Back when both of us were gainfully employed by the Kansas City Star, I ridiculed the idea that after 230 years the tax code was still a work in progress and editorial writer Steve Winn made an excellent point:
There always needs to be a tax bill working its way through the legislative digestive system because that helps both sides raise money.
There always needs to be a crisis so we’ll reach into our pockets and give money to the people who think like we do. Pick a topic – abortion, gun control, immigration, whether or not the final episode of Game of Thrones sucked – and our conflict helps finance the people in charge.
Why would politicians want people to get along or actually solve a problem?
It’s bad business.
The real enemy is extremism
I’m totally going to steal this next part from the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart because he said it so well:
The problem isn’t Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, Arabs or Jews, whites or blacks, gays or straights, cats or dogs – the problem is extremism.
For the most part I fall in the liberal camp and yet somehow some of my very best friends are conservatives. When it’s time to vote I know we’re going to part ways, but that doesn’t keep me from enjoying a beer or watching a ballgame with them.
If all my friends had to agree with me 100 percent of the time I wouldn’t have many friends and I’m hard enough to get along with as it is.
So while I spend a lot of time criticizing Donald Trump, that doesn’t mean I think highly of Nancy Pelosi and I’ve drawn cartoons that say so.
Criticizing everything the opposition does while refusing to acknowledge mistakes of your own is no way to get along, reach a compromise and move forward – something we don’t do much these days.
So there you have it; I don’t trust either side completely, but I trust the conservative politicians a little less than the liberal politicians and I don’t trust extremists at all.
If you fall on the other side of that equator it’s OK; just because I believe government should step in and help out those who have fallen on hard times and you believe taxes should be low so you can keep more of your hard-earned money and spend it as you choose, that doesn’t mean we can’t share a beer, a shot and some funny stories.
But it does mean you’re buying.