Nikita Krushchev used to tell this joke about himself: a man was arrested for running through Red Square shouting, “Krushchev is an idiot! Krushchev is an idiot!” He was sentenced to 33 years in Siberia, 3 for insulting the Party Secretary, and 30 for revealing a state secret. I received an email a few days ago, in response to the Palin target map cartoon, from one Frederick L. McCain, which read, “Hey Ed you really are an ASSHOLE…I will repeat in case you are hard of hearing….you really are an ASSHOLE.” I couldn’t help thinking of the Krushchev joke when I read it. Fred, you may be right.
At least Fred had the courage to sign his name, and then later, to post the same message in the comments section on the website, along with the tired, predictable charge that I have a far-Left agenda. Do I? I think it’s reasonable to question one’s own agenda from time to time. After a bit of soul-searching (as Pima County Sheriff Dubnik suggested we all do at this time) here’s what I came up with.
The first item on my agenda is to get up in the morning with enough energy to make myself a hot decaf soy latte. When my head has cleared I wonder whether there are any bills to pay, and if there are, how I will pay them. Usually there are dishes in the sink and on the counter that need to be washed, and a dishwasher that probably needs to be emptied first. At some point during these early morning rituals, I will give my wife a kiss and see what she’s up to for the day. This often involves determining that I’ve forgotten that she already told me her schedule yesterday. Then I spend a little time worrying about my kids, and what they’re doing. One’s a recent college graduate still trying to figure out his immediate future; the other’s a junior in college. I’m an inveterate worrier about their welfare. I worry that they won’t be able to find good jobs in this economy, that they will be unable to find affordable health insurance, that they will find the American dream elusive, that owning a home, a car, putting food on the table will be more difficult for them than it was for me. I worry that short-sighted, selfish decisions my generation made will make their lives harder, will prevent them from achieving their potential. I worry that the world is not a safe place for them, that there are too many people in the world who wish them harm only because they are Americans by birth. When something like what happened in Tucson happens, I worry about them getting shot by some lunatic. I like to think that so far, my agenda is pretty much the same as every other American’s, regardless of political affiliation.
At some point I snap out of this reverie and realize I need to get to work and draw a cartoon. As you might expect, many of my cartoons are informed by my penchant for worrying about my children’s future. So I examine the issues of the day, and try to find something coherent to say. When I look at the arguments being made by both sides, I almost always find one more compelling than the other. So, when I look at the health care mess, only on side seems to want to create a system that will allow my kids to get insurance. Repealing Obamacare, however imperfect the law may be, doesn’t appear to be the answer to them finding insurance. The same with the economy in general. Giving the richest Americans an ever bigger share of the country’s wealth while cutting the social safety net to pay for it doesn’t seem to be in their best interests, unless they somehow manage to become rich. Cutting taxes for the rich in the hope they will create jobs hasn’t panned out for decades. So, once again, I tend to side with the more liberal point of view on that one. And so it goes with most issues; I just keep finding that I usually (but not always) disagree with the conservative answers to my children’s needs.
I am, though, willing to entertain other points of view. Go ahead, convince me. I’m listening, but, please note, I’m a lot more likely to hear you out if you make the case without the childish name-calling. I’ve been drawing cartoons for more than 30 years, I’ve heard from thousands of readers like you, Fred, many of whom were far more creative in their slurs than you seem capable of. As you might imagine, I have a pretty thick skin. Along with the callouses, I’ve developed an enduring sorrow for the loss of polite and intelligent conversation in what passes today for the national discourse. High on my agenda is a return of civility, higher even than advocating for my political point of view. I try to do my part by drawing cartoons worthy of my own standards of decency (I confess I don’t always succeed), and by demanding that the commenters on this site make actual arguments, preferably based on fact, and devoid of labels, name-calling and obscenity.
If that’s a far Left agenda, I’m guilty as charged.