Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It Is So Unfair When Comic Strips Say True Things (Or, More Fox News Whining)

I've written on this before, but this campaign season and financial crisis has certainly energized those in the comic biz like little else has in recent years; and Fox News is again on call to reprimand every single fluff issue it can out of it. Case in point, their argument against Doonesbury creator Gary (GB) Trudeau:
Here's the comic strip in question:Now, I know it is Fox News and I shouldn't have even clicked on the link to the video that appeared as I checked my mail. But I did, and now I'm left thinking that Fox News, an organization I believe used to at least report the news, albeit with a far right wing slant, seems to be focusing all of its attention on protecting and defending Sarah Palin from these sort of attacks. First it was the heinous Newsweek cover, and now Doonesbury. Here's the problem with attacking the comic strip from the point of view of the left playing mean. One is that the right has its very own Trudeau, and that is Bruce Tinsley. Tinsley frequently maligns Obama, Biden, Jesse Jackson, feminists, teachers, academics, the Clintons, and liberals in general in his Mallard Fillmore comic strip. He is Fox News to Trudeau's MSNBC. I personally find Tinsley more offensive; one is the very way in which he chooses to draw Obama and those on the left. Another is the fact that, at least here, Trudeau is only reciting what we know about the Palins, which is less offensive on an individual scale. 

More than that, Jonah Goldberg attacks the Left for pointing out the some right wingers' hypocrisy in his comments about the Doonesbury comic strip. I think Trudeau brings up some worthwhile points in this strip, and one of them is that the Right is on the losing side of the culture war to the point where they are holding up as an example of right wing values a working woman. For a party that has for decades espoused right wing values and decried such cultural forces as the feminist movement, divorce rates, and teens having sex as being destructive and products of Leftist shenanigans, the very fact that this ticket is being presented to the American public seems to be very much an issue of capitulation. A friend of mine, in reviewing American Wife, had this to say about the nature of marriage in American politics:
I envision future first ladies to be women like Hillary, Michelle and even Sarah Palin - those who work to balance motherhood with their careers, ambitious and put together and smart. But I also think that the men running for president are going to have wives like that, because that's the kind of person they'd be attracted to.
Putting aside my ambitious goals of having more women run for president in the future (Hillary 2016! (I obviously intend for Obama to have two terms)), Sarah Palin's inclusion in that set of work-minded women shows us how far our culture has come in accepting that "family values" are more inclusive than just white, middle-class suburban housewives with the children washed and dressed and dinner on the table for the hard-working wage earner husband. Our ideals as a society have grown beyond having women in the national and private realms being Nancy Reagans and Barbara Bushes, and the GOP and the right wing in general have had to play catch up. Trudeau is right to point out an obvious fact, that the party of traditional and exclusionary family values have had to get with the program. That even with backlashes and even with continued sexism and even with all of the work we have yet to do, the Left's vision of a more perfect union has been the one to capture the landscape of our nation.

Beyond that, I think Trudeau's other point(s) should be one that we further examine. I'm particularly enthralled by the panel mentioning that Sarah Palin has "a husband... ...who loves his country so much he joined a secessionist party". While we debate whether Barack Obama serving on two nonprofit Chicago boards with a man who was involved with domestic terrorist activities when Obama was eight years old should be a controversy or not, Todd Palin's affiliation with a political party looking to make Alaska its own country is ignored. Todd Palin's membership in such a group is not only the antithesis of American values, but also a blatant example of white privilege. As is the ability to have one's pregnant daughter expect privacy, as well as not having said pregnancy reflect upon one's candidacy. Barack Obama is already regarded with suspicion due to being African-American (as well as being mistakenly labelled Arab and Muslim in some circles); if Michelle Obama had links to a party with separatist aspirations, Obama's candidacy would be over. Because he would be regarded as even more unAmerican and by a wider swath of the population than he is now. But Todd Palin's membership does not cause much of a ripple of concern, among liberals or conservatives, about either his Americanness and patriotic nature or that of his wife. That is privilege, to be counted as patriotic and 'allowed' to have this sort of activity because one is white - and a member of the GOP. I have no illusions that such a tie would have also been exploited had Obama been white, or if one of the Clintons had a relative with such ties. But I also doubt that the Clintons would be sunk in as thorough a fashion as Obama would be.

And as much as I hate discussing Bristol Palin's pregnancy, I do think the fact that the Palins can essentially say that life happens and have the pregnancy not reflect on their parenting is also a privilege of race and class. Jamie Lynn Spears was regarded as white trash by the Right after she admitted to being pregnant at 16 - by the likes of Bill O'Reilly, who seemed to change his mind about what constituted a parent as a pinhead when Bristol Palin's pregnancy came to light. Teen pregnancy is considered an epidemic of the African-American community. Bristol Palin is fortunate for her pregnancy to be merely reflective of her own life, instead of being indicative of 'those people' of a certain class and race, as is the McCain-Palin ticket as a whole. In a way, being a white, Christian, middle-class Republican is the best place to be if one deviates from the Republican lifestyle now. Because now it is not reflective of one's religion, one's education, one's party affiliation, or one's race. It is all on that person. And that is a luxury and a privilege many others do not have. I myself flip out every time Sarah Palin steps on stage because I'm aware how she does is not just reflective of her but reflective of "women". It is a crappy position to be in, and the opposite of that position is what I think Tradeau, in his own bubbling way, is trying to highlight.

On the whole, I'm not often amused or challenged by Doonesbury's take of the political process. Although I agree many times with Tradeau, his manner of expressing his viewpoints is often mundane and expected. I much prefer Non Sequitur's use of analogy and satire. Like this week's storyline:

I'm almost embarrassed to admit it took me until today to recognize the similarities between Eddie's predicament and our current financial crisis. Good show, Wiley Miller, good show.

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