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Be the response an "ah" of agreement or an "argh" of disgust....
on September 21, 2005
Inorder to review the history of political cartoons before examining this book, I surfed the Web and came upon a site which shares a wealth of information: [...] I now presume to suggest that this brief history be read first. (Some may find sufficient background information in Lucy Shelton Caswell's even shorter Introduction to this volume.) Credit J.P. Trostle with the selection and editing of the material which focuses on representative work by almost 150 political cartoonists, introduced in alphabetical order. Together, they do indeed offer a wealth of illustrated "insights & assaults from today's editorial pages."
Of course, our exposure to political cartoons is limited by the number of daily newspapers and weekly news magazines we read. For that reason, I especially appreciate seeing the works of cartoonists of whom I was previously unaware. That is one of the greatest benefits this volume offers. I also appreciate the wide range of perspectives on the most prominent public figures. As Caswell correctly notes, almost all of the selections will elicit one of two responses: an "ah" of agreement or "argh" of disgust. For various reasons, political cartoons have an immediate, often compelling impact which Op Ed articles, for example, seldom have. They often seem to me to be the visual equivalent of a sound bite. The most compelling measure up to standards which Pat Oliphant set for himself years ago:
To create "a graphic distillation of the personality of the strutting popinjay on last night's news. [His audience] wants a visual rendering of immediacy and endurance that can be cut from the printed page and saved on the refrigerator, or if disliked, can be ripped from the page, have rude recommendations scrawled upon it, and mailed back to the artist. Such people, pro and con, possess awareness and opinion, and as such are to be blessed." High standards indeed. Judge for yourself which of the cartoonists' works included in this volume measure up to them.
One final point. Whatever the political loyalties and inclinations may be, it seems imperative to me that those in the news media should do all they can to accommodate a wide and deep diversity of opinion. Many eminently qualified persons have refused to become involved in the political process because it is too often polarized and mean-spirited. (Colin Powell is only one of several such persons who come to mind.) On an admittedly personal note, I conclude with the hope that we follow Voltaire's suggestion: cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it. That is as relevant to elected officials as it is to cartoonists who portray them with caricatures such as those presented in this lively, entertaing volume.