Who’s Next?

CATS062Who’s next, indeed? No one knows what Mohammad looked like, any more than Christians know what Jesus really looked like. We can assume that he had dark hair and a beard, but that’s about as close as you’re going to get. So when a cartoonist draws a picture and says it’s Mohammad, or Jesus, he or she is just guessing. If I draw a potato and call it Mohammad, is that a capital offense?

If a small minority of fanatics can convince the free world that murdering cartoonists for drawing their prophet is at the very least, an understandable act, then what’s stopping the Scientologists from striking a blow for the honor of L. Ron Hubbard? What if a few disaffected Mormons beheaded Trey Parker and Matt Stone for their scandalous Broadway hit, Book of Mormon ? Are we being insensitive by drawing a fat Buddha? Is Brahma a sacred cow?

There are some who claim that satire must evolve with the times. Just as it is now unacceptable to portray blacks as watermelon-eating, fat-lipped slackers, or the hook-nosed, money-grubbing Jew, we are asked to refrain from stereotyping Arabs as towel-headed butchers. (Although someone should tell the Muslim nations that Uncle Sam is not Satan and cartoon animals should not encourage children to become martyrs.) Yeah, we could all use a little evolving.

But the very nature of satire is to ridicule the established order, to break the taboo. There are writers, poets, and cartoonists in the Islamic world who risk imprisonment, torture and death to make fun of the ruling class and their dumb-ass laws and rituals. (There are links to some of their stories in the Cartoonist Under Fire category, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.) History is overflowing with dead clowns, but their works live on in defiance of time, mocking generations of censors and book burners.

And the satire here, if I have to spell it out, is the absurdity of murdering human beings for the act of drawing a picture or writing a word, and doing it in the name of God. Criticizing religion beliefs is not a hate crime, it is a dissenting opinion. Although all of the above religious institutions have just as much cause to be offended by we heathens, most have given up murder and martyrdom as an incentive to convert.

Picasso277I did this cartoon in the early summer of 2001, after finding the story in an old speech by Melina Mercouri. It sat around my studio for months, because it didn’t fit the relatively peaceful times we were living in. I finally decided to run it in The Union on the Saturday before the annual Constitution Day parade in Nevada City, September 8. Three days after, and all these years later, it is more relevant than ever.

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15 Responses to Who’s Next?

  1. Chris Peterson says:

    I remember, as a youth, being taught in school, (in the most mocking manner), about newly discovered tribes in South America and their ridiculous beliefs in wood nymphs and demons. And then on Sundays, Mom would take us to the “proper” house of worship to study our version of the Book of Cosmic Superstition, (the Bible). I can’t tell you how many years it took to fully recover from that indoctrination. (I often wondered why Dad, a mathematician who’s world consisted of only the facts in evidence, stayed home. Now I know, although I am deeply dismayed that I am the only sibling of six who has figured it out.)

    Religion, in it’s purest form, is a state of insanity which can, unapologetically, rationalize ANY form of inhumanity. To my mind; religion IS inhumanity. With all due respect to Descartes: Cognito ergo Deus; I think, therefore I am God. Billions of human beings believe that WE are the reason the Earth revolves around the sun, (a fact that would have gotten you drawn, quartered, disemboweled, or burned alive, only a short while ago in human history). It’s highly hypocritical that our nation’s Christians react in horror to the beheading of people when, by their own historical standards, such an act would be seen as a much more humane punishment for blasphemy.

    So yeah, I agree whole-heartedly that drawing pictures of religious avatars is barbaric, and truth be told, I am just as mortified by Israel, a purely theocratic state, having nukes, as I am of the prospect of their equally-psychotic counterparts having them.

    There are a whole lot of free-thinking, good people in this world. Sadly, we are still in the minority. So, draw on, my friend; history, (if there’s anyone left to record it), will show YOU as the enlightened one.

    • Chris Peterson says:

      Sorry; meant *killing people for* drawing pictures of religious avatars is barbaric. Non puto itaque errare- I don’t think, therefore I screw up.

      • Terry says:

        Chris, I have to agree with you and admit how offended I am that one “cult” or another would condemn me and everyone else of a similar mind set because My opinion differs from theirs. I am particularly incensed that the nation of Islam would have the temerity, the unmitigated gall to pass judgment and condemn me for my beliefs simply because they differ from mine. Human beings lead their lives by codes they learn from their associates, siblings & elders, and whether these lessons are beneficial or not is up to the individual according to his/her experience. However our beliefs are the anchors which hold us on this plane and guide (or misguide) each of us through our lives. It is deeply personal and if one wants to share his beliefs with those of a like mind more individuals benefit from the association. However, when someone has the temerity to try and impose their beliefs on me and convince me that I will suffer at their hands for MY beliefs, I take exception to their invasion of my beliefs. I’m not saying that the other religions of the world are WRONG, I’m saying, allow me to have my own beliefs and if an rendering by me, of YOUR deity offends you, tell your deity to let me know. No one made you judge, jury and executioner. My very real problem with Islam is that they have the gall to demand respect from me and yet I am shown no tolerance whatsoever. That attitude is not be be tolerated.

        • Chris Peterson says:

          Any person who takes the life of another is, at that moment, insane, and we allow it, endorse it, condemn it, or ignore it, based on consensus to the act.

          Our Constitution claims that “All men are created equal.” Religion has always been man’s way of sorting them out from there, and the more religious a society; the uglier the sorting.

          We have those here who still attempt to rationalize the destruction of Iraq. The Iraqis have no such arguments there, which has given rise to the religious zealots. The people of the Middle East do not, as claimed, hate us for who we are; the people hate us for what we have done, and the zealots have taken full advantage of that.

          As for the drawing of pictures; it is once again the religiously insane who take offense and murder in the name of their god. They have used their mythology to fire up their base, just as our religious leaders have fired up theirs. In effect: our decidedly secular society is being sucked into a religious war which was instigated by imperial capitalists. To paraphrase Samuel Clemens: you can’t make shit like that up.

          If there is a god, and this is his way of weeding out the idiots; it’s a no-brainer from my perspective.

          • Terry says:

            You know, Chris, I kind of agree but can’t help but wonder that if there is a God, why has He/She/It/Them, allowed the world to get into the mess it is?

  2. rlcrabb says:

    One of the surviving “Charlie” cartoonists still lives the horror of January 7… http://www.tcj.com/catharsis-and-charlie/

    • Chris Peterson says:

      An excellent article, and it sounds like Luz is on his way back. Also a good title for his book, not that the scribbling of a child, or the musings of an old fart like me, are not a catharsis of sorts, themselves.

      I’d be willing to bet that you will be one of those waiting to get their hands on an English copy. No doubt a sad, but as he said, at times funny, read. With the interest the story has generated, he will probably find himself struggling with being rich and heart-broken at the same time.

  3. Very true Bob. Life has shown me how little we know regarding our seen and unseen world and the universe consisting of gillions of galaxies and planets. Thanks to NASA and all those inspired writers and inventors who have given a glimpse of the great unknown. Many years ago I asked God to show me there was more to life than all the miserable people everywhere. He opened the door and my enlightenment began. http://www.mcguiresplace.net/Stories-Random%20Thoughts-Inspiration And…by the way, for those who invest the time to investigate, the Bible contains both history and prophecy. Where we’ve been and where we are headed if we ignore human natures tendency to ignore and repeat mistakes.

    • Chris Peterson says:

      Inspiration exists, but it needs to find us working. -Picasso

      It is lack that gives us inspiration. It is not fullness. -Bradbury

      For me; inspiration is the ability to focus on what one has yet to think of.

  4. rlcrabb says:

    Pulitzer prize alumnus Art Speigalman’s two cents… http://www.thenation.com/article/201721/drawing-line#

  5. Not long ago we watched the documentary about Snowden’s debacle. Evidently he wasn’t the only one that was targeted for spilling the beans.

  6. rlcrabb says:

    Twenty-eight year old Atena Farhadani fashions paper cups into a canvas for her cartoons in her prison cell. She’ll have plenty of time to work on them, as she has been sentenced to twelve years in prison… http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2015/06/01/iranian-artist-farghadani-who-drew-parliament-as-animals-sentenced-to-12-plus-years/

  7. rlcrabb says:

    Another piece by Jeet Heer from the New Republic. He can’t seem to make up his mind whether or not the cartoonists are being irresponsible by depicting Der Prophet. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/121983/art-spiegelman-muhammad-cartoon-renews-debate-prophet-depiction

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