The Shotgun Blog
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Filibuster: The first nuclear commandment
J.J. McCullough writes:
In a story that did not get a lot of press this week, the Obama administration has announced that it plans to go ahead with a nuclear technology deal with the Communist nation of Vietnam, despite that country’s refusal to make a pledge to not enrich uranium. Enriching uranium is the first step towards bomb-making, and we may recall, the whole brouhaha with Iran largely stems from President Ahmadinejad’s refusal to stop doing it. In a display of good global citizenship earlier last year, the United Arab Emirates promised the US that it would not enrich uranium as part of a similar binational nuke-tech deal, but Vietnam has not been quite so willing to roll over.
It’s interesting to watch the slow evolution of the postwar relationship between Vietnam and America, and the atmosphere of awkward, guilty tension that seems to define it. Vietnam remains, after all, a vicious Communist dictatorship, and in other circumstances one can imagine the States recoiling from the possibility that such a nation could soon be in the possession of nuclear arms. When Vietnam’s case study (to say nothing of Pakistan and China) is viewed in contrast to the treatment of Iran and North Korea, the principle that dictatorships should not be in the possession of nukes seems to be getting more hazy and arbitrarily enforced by the day.
Monday, August 09, 2010
Filibuster: Sacred Ground Zero
J.J. McCullough's commentary with the cartoon:
Last week, New York City’s Landmark’s Commission approved a key measure that will allow construction to begin on the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.” The mosque, which will not actually be on Ground Zero, merely close to it, and is not really a mosque at all, but rather a multi-story “Islamic cultural center,” has stirred up all sorts of culture-war tension between the right and left. Many prominent Republicans have come out against the center’s construction, calling it an offensive, provocative corruption of the memory of 9-11, and the Islamic character of the crime. Many liberals, by contrast, including Mayor Bloomberg, have fully endorsed the proposed building, saying that a spiritual, educational center for self-described moderate American Muslims is exactly what New Yorkers need to move beyond 9-11, and any lingering feelings of interfaith distrust it may have provoked.
Though I do think it’s important to remember 9-11 as an act of terrorism with explicitly Islamist motivations, it seems a bit absurdly petty and vindictive to decree that henceforth no Muslim anything is allowed anywhere near Ground Zero, period. American Muslims are a fact of life in New York, after all. Some even died on September 11. If our goal truly is, as President Bush used to always say, to foster productive relationships with moderate Islam at the expense of the radicals, then how is alienating the moderates in this situation anything less than thoroughly counter-productive?
I can likewise understand the desire to keep Ground Zero sacred and shrine-like, but that dream was abandoned ages ago. The latest plans, after all, include the construction of a massive five-floor shopping mall on the attack site. I somehow doubt we’re going to have a store-by-store debate over which trashy franchise best “honors the memories of the victims.”
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Filibuster: A note to Tea Party activists from the NAACP
J.J. McCullough writes:
The NAACP, one of America’s most eminent black civil rights groups, came out swinging at conservative Tea Party activists this week. In a resolution at their annual general meeting, the organization blasted the Tea Party for containing “racist elements,” and demanded the group fully repudiate the bigots within their midst.
“The time has come for them to accept the responsibility that comes with influence and make clear there is no space for racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in their movement,” declared NAACP president Ben Jealous after the resolution passed. Much of the racism allegations swirling around the Tea Party center on the sorts of protest signs many of its members have chosen to bring to their rallies. The NAACP website presently contains a little gallery of some of the most offensive ones, under the heading “don’t let hate divide America.” Among other crimes against humanity, we can see depictions of President Obama as Mr. T, or that jolly black chef from the cream of wheat box.
As a visual satirist myself, I have to say I find all of this a bit dopey. Unflattering visual analogies do not presuppose racist intent. Depicting the President of the United States as a witch-doctor or monkey is hardly new; practically every president has faced similarly unflattering analogies. I can particularly recall a lot of witch-doctor related parodying directed towards George Bush Sr., a man who coined the term “voodoo economics” to describe his own party’s fiscal philosophy. And of course we all remember how frequently his son was depicted as some sort of slope-browed chimpanzee.
We’re only reading more into this kind of stuff today because the president is black, so every bit of teasing that used to be regarded as innocuous is now scrutinized under the racial microscope.
While genuinely racist caricatures are obviously hateful and ignorant, I reject the premise that Obama’s race is completely off grounds for mockery. A public figure’s appearance is always a healthy source of material for satire. Again, we can think of all the times Dubya was teased for his vacant facial expressions, or the many grotesque caricatures of John McCain’s hideous neck-flesh. When making parodies, you compare people to things they look like, and the fact remains that Obama does look a lot more like the cream of wheat guy than Bush or Clinton.
Seems to me that a truly a non-racist political culture would see parody as parody, and not get excessively flustered trying to constantly find “hidden agendas” motivating everything. Sometimes a poster is just a poster.
J.J. McCullough is a political cartoonist from Coquitlam, British Columbia.