Good job everyone.
It is barely afternoon on the West Coast of North America, so I am still digesting the news as it is coming in. I sit at a reference desk in my library, helping students find books or cite sources or research topics, hoping this will help them succeed in their efforts to better their lives, to become more productive individuals and better informed citizens. So I am not at the barricades (yet), where people risk police brutality as they mount a diverse (pluralistic, inter-sectional, choose your favorite) resistance against reactionary forces that have taken over the State.
As come out the people, so come out the hashtags: #ResistFromDay1, #womensmarch, #j20resist, #disruptj20 and many more. Follow them, retweet them, support them. Twitter is hardly the revolutionary force we once thought it was, but as Black Lives Matter and the Arab Spring have demonstrated, social media remains a powerful force of communication and dissemination of information. (And other words that end in “tion.”)
Tonight people will be taking over cities across the country, but I will wait until tomorrow to join the Women’s March in Portland. I worry tonight will be taken over by the shop window breakers. I have no love or hate for shop windows, but the small number of people who break them detract from the important messages the vast number of protesters are trying to get through a news media culture genetically disposed toward sensational images and hot headed headlines. (Purple prose alliteration alert!)
This struggle will not finish in one day, or one weekend, or one year. There is real work to be done, and I am grateful for the hard working folks who have done so much already. I do my bit, but I should do more. I bet a lot of folks stumbling upon this post will feel the same. So what should be done? What is the strategy? (Do the Democrats have one yet? Are they reliable?) Is there a working theory to make our praxis coherent? Maybe we need multiple theories and a diversification of practices.
There are multiple fronts, after all: not only the federal level, but state and municipal levels (school boards!); protests, boycotts, petitions, strikes; party organization, election reform, investigations of voter suppression; pressure on elected representatives (whether they represent us or not) and the corporations who prop them up; demanding the places we work for abide by standards of human dignity and respect; donating to and participating in organizations the fight for our civil liberties, human rights, and individual freedoms.
Yet even on a more practical level, we have to watch out for one another, one-to-one.
Recently the president of a trade school in Missouri lost his job, simply because he allowed a homeless student to sleep in the library instead of freeze to death in sub-zero temperatures. This was a simple act of kindness — and common sense decency! — that should not be heroism, but something that anyone would do. Instead, a good person was punished for it. Here in Oregon, we have seen six people die from hypothermia (I recently did a cartoon about this), at least one of whom had been evicted because she could not afford the spike in rents that are affecting the whole region; the rest were victims of our inadequate services for the mentally ill.
These and other stories are commonplace throughout the country as we wrap up eight years of the most politically progressive presidency since the Carter administration! We have only begun this new era of deregulation and dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, the prospect of which has already put thoughts of suicide into the minds of people whose lives will be made worse when their meager access to health care is taken away by Congress. (Take, for one example, the affect of repeal for trans communities.)
What are you going to do? When you see someone suffering on the street? Or when a family member or friend loses health coverage for a disability or chronic illness? When a stranger is threatened by xenophobia? Is it enough to do “what we’ve always done”? Is it enough to defend the ACA, which, really, life saving as I know it has been for thousands of people, was still compromised by an inherently dysfunctional health care system? As the TrumpAdmin threatens to embrace naked militarism abroad and at home, we need to do better than call for reinstatement of the old militarism we have experienced since September 11th. We need better than the same old politics run by corporations.
These are among many questions and concerns running through my head as this Inaugurapocolypse slips into a weekend of protest and resistance. If you were looking for answers to any of these, I apologize that I have not provided any. I don’t think there are quick and easy solutions, and I tend to resist them when proposed; isn’t that kind of the problem with voters who flock to a guy who makes empty promises of bringing back jobs and restoring America to a highly sanitized former glory? We have enough of that already, oy. However, I am encouraged by the engagement and thoughfulness of people like Ijeoma Oluo (see her recent FB video on social justice work) and all the great people organizing in my hometown.
Good luck out there. Stay safe.
Here is a progression of sketches of Gogol as I study his face and head toward the caricature I am aiming for. I am closer, but still not quite there yet. Still, I like these. The main challenge was his hair. Gogol was quite the dandy, and had really gorgeous hair that he seems to have been proud of. Honestly, he could have modeled for Clairol or L’Oreal. But he died long before those companies could have offered him the gig. Oh well. He gave us genius works of literature instead.
These sketches are in preparation for my adaptation of The Nose. That will appear later this month.
The other day I read a blog post about a Tumblr-based controversy involving comics by a friend of mine (whose name I’ll leave anonymous to protect them from further abuse.) I am on Tumblr frequently, but I follow friends, comics, artists, some politics, various geekery, so I somehow missed this debate over my friend’s work. (They certainly ignored it. Wise.) The blog post was thoughtful, pointing out reasonable criticisms, and mostly defended my friend’s work and framing of certain sensitive issues related to gender and sexuality.
But I was curious, so I popped over to Tumblr to search their name. Damn! The results were jaw dropping. Was I reading about a sensitive artist who deals with difficult topics with humor and humanity? Nope. Apparently my friend is a monster. Occasionally I came across criticism that was well-founded, pointing out the kinds of problems my friend would listen to and think about and learn from. They’re reflective and self-critical, so are open to evolving. But that kind of criticism was pretty rare. Most of it sounded a lot like the verbal abuse the Tumblr icon is heaping upon the confused corgi above. In fact, I borrowed a lot of the cliched verbiage for the dialog.
Of course, people have a right to be upset and vent on social media. I do it all the time. I do my best to avoid the toxicity, the mean-spiritedness, that social media and the anonymity of the Internet notoriously encourage. And no one owes my friend a lesson in political or spiritual evolution. But it’s hard to see what purpose is served by the deluge of bile.
I read The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov for the first time a few years ago. It reignited my love of classic Russian writers, drove me back to Gogol, and eventually influenced the direction I am taking in comics now. This summer I have picked up the novel again, using this time the elegant translation by Mirra Ginsburg; my first reading was the Michael Karpelson translation, a lovely rendition which has been completely overshadowed by the Pevear-Volokhonsky, now in a 50th anniversary edition that I will probably buy for completist reasons (not to mention the Michael Glenny.) All those competing translations aside, I was inspired to revisit Behemoth, a character I had casually drawn on my iPad the last time I read the novel (see below). I was never happy with that version, as it didn’t really fit the image I have of Behemoth in my head. I like this new sketch much better. I plan on doing other characters soon: Homeless, Azazello, Woland, and Fagot, for starters. Possibly the title characters, too.
The first collection of Fetch strips has arrived!
Full color manga-sized collection of the first 20 weekly strips starring Fetch, the demon-cat who haunts my life. Politics and personal problems merge with humor and satire. Plus extras!
Print: $5.00 + $3.50 shipping (US only) • Order via Square Up
Digital Download: $2.50 via Gumroad