Saturday, November 22, 2014

Star Missing Larger Point in Cartoon Controversy?

When Gary Varvel drew and the Indianapolis Star posted a cartoon criticizing President Barack Obama's immigration executive order, it was less than surprising.

The content of the cartoon, however, was.

Varvel's cartoon shows an apparently multigenerational family gathered around a Thanksgiving table. In the window, a girl or young woman is crawling in as well as a man (originally with a mustache...then without one in later iterations). In the background, another woman is peeking into the window. In the bubble, the man standing at the table holding the turkey says, "Thanks to the President's immigration order, we'll be having some extra guests this Thanksgiving."

Many have called the cartoon racist, and it's hard to argue against it.  The family seemingly-gleefully coming through the window does appear to be depicted as different than the family sitting around the table.

At its worst, it's a racist cartoon.  At best, it's in poor taste and extremely shortsighted.  I'll let you make up your own mind.

The Star has since pulled the cartoon down and admitted that it "erred" in publishing the cartoon.  It did not, however, apologize to those offended by the cartoon.

Varvel attempted, by his cartoon, to reduce the very complicated issue of immigration in this country to simple fearmongering, in my opinion.  The problem is much different than depicted.

First of all, immigrants of all types are in this country undocumented.  They are from all corners of the globe and not just from across the Rio Grande.  In fact, one of the most vocal undocumented immigrant activists, Juan Antonio Vargas, is undocumented himself, and he's from the Philippines.

Secondly, these immigrants don't want to climb into our homes on Thanksgiving dinner.  They want the same things that our families want.  They want a safe, secure place to raise a family.  They want to be able to send their kids to good schools and off to college.  They want to work in safe environments and pay taxes (as much as we all do).  They want their own turkey dinner!  They don't want yours.  They want to live in this country just like their American counterparts and come out of the shadows.

Unfortunately, many people are not able to grasp that idea because they can't get past the initial fear or hatred they hold in their hearts for people who are different than they are.  It's the kind of hatred I've seen on Facebook and on other social media platforms as I've tried to make a reasonable argument about why I support President Obama's action. Unfortunately, the Indianapolis Star cannot correct the damage they did by feeding those fears and that hatred.  By and large, there's no longer a curiosity to understand the plights of others from many in our society.

It's why we can't have a reasonable discussion about immigration, health care, or any number of other hot button issues.  

That was the error the Star made in publishing the cartoon, and I don't know if they still get it.

1 comment:

Paul K. Ogden said...

I actually agree with the points you made about the cartoon being off base politically. I couldn't have said it any better. Where people are reaching though is claiming the cartoon is somehow "racist." Even if the man with the mustache is considered to be a Mexican that doesn't somehow make the racist any more than a TV promo on crime using a black man in the promo is racist. It's sad that we can't have a political dialogue in this country (making arguments like you make on your blog) without people trying to inject race (actually Latino is an ethnicity not a racist; there are white and black Latinos) into the political debate.