A Case of Speaking Up

"Political cartooning is a negative art form. Cartoonists and columnists work best when bashing hypocrites or speaking to issues where opinion is divided".

- as Daryl Cagle wrote in 2007 on the Virginia Tech massacre, when or whether it is appropriate to draw after the fact of it. While I very much appreciate his thoughts on the when or the whether, I was provoked by the classification of negativity at play. Is it not (politely done on his part) a belittling of the art form, what it does and why it so does?

For one thing, criticizing has more to it than a censuring pointing finger. Etymologically speaking critique means making a judgment through taking things apart and that is very much what a cartoon does.

Taking apart so as to see other aspects of the persons and actions involved. Case in point, this is a cartoon, which has been circulated since 2012, when the killings in Syria had already been far too many. Children were being murdered by the Assad-regime in far greater numbers, but in principle not unlike the Virginia Tech in that this should never take place. Only, in the Syrian instance the murdered are being photographed to document the atrocities. Juan Zero too shows us children wrapped for burial. But wrapped in bright colors, shimmering as if they were candy. The bright happiness that a childhood ought to be.

In other words: Into the one drawing the cartoonist has managed to combine the "is" and "ought", the reality and the goal to work for, while not falling prey to Hume's guillotine of pretending to describe while actually just making his opinion known. And not only that, Juan Zero manages to let both verbs remain active, playing them out against each other as reflections of the problem at hand.

Personally I have a special weakness for the emphases in the text done precisely the way Valdemar Andersen would have drawn up a poster a 100 years ago to catch our attention. Which of course goes to underline that a cartoon just as a poster is never pretending to be a final word; it is a case of speaking up:

Juan Zero, from the series Free Syria 1, May 23, 2012.

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Juan Zero and must not be reproduced without his permission.

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