Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Updated 09/19/01

Artist's Statement

I was driving around last Wednesday, the day after the World Trade Center attack, thinking "Is there any way I can do a cartoon about this? No, there's no way. No way. It can't be done. This cannot be funny, at least not for another few years. But how can I do a cartoon about anything else?" But later that day not one but two friends contacted me with good cartoon ideas. The first one was probably the funnier, but so inappropriate that I don't think I'll be able to draw it for another fifty years. The other came by way of my friend Dave Dudley, currently isolated from his fellow Americans and enduring grim exile in Montreal, where the headlines are like "AMERICAN FLIGHTS DIVERTED TO CANADA." Dave, like me and all good Americans, was filled with patriotic rage and nurturing visions of "fiery nuclear vnegeance" against our attackers, but he also despaired at the fulitiy of any military response, since the attack was led by a handful of guys who probably lived with their mothers and are all now dead anyway. The only really satisfying retaliation, he said, would be to rebuild the towers, each a mile high, with flames shooting out the tops and neon signs in a dozen languages saying "KISS MY ASS." I immediately e-mailed him back and asked if I could steal that idea, verbatim, for this week's cartoon. He e-mailed back his blesings but added, "I'm thinking now that there should be a third tower, just to show them who the fuck they're dealing with."

So that's exactly what I drew. It seemed to me like an uncharacteristically affirmative, even boosterish cartoon for me. But, as local readers will have noticed, it does not appear in this week's edition of the Baltimore City Paper. Our publisher flatly refused to run it, feeling that any representation of the World Trade Centers at this point would be too offensive to our readers. My editor, who is unfalteringly supportive no matter how indefensible my cartoons may seem, tried to point out that it was really sort of patriotic and uplifting, and that if it were to get any response, it would probably be jingoistic approval. But the publisher felt that the timing was too tasteless. Possibly he was still a little sensitive about the reaction to last week's swastika cartoon. (Apparently there were a lot of complaints from advertisers and outraged letters-to-the-editor from urban readers who, less familiar with the dark places of the earth than I am, missed the point about American racism and instead assumed that I had chosen the week of the World Trade Center attacks to publicly declare my allegiance to the ideals of National Socialism.) So, for the first time in three years, The Pain did not appear in the Baltimore City Paper. An editor's note claimed I was on vacation and in my space they ran an extremely unfunny cartoon called "Ziggy with a Hat."

While my paper was trying to contact me to let me know how insensitive I'd been to our nation's tragedy, I was in Manhattan, volunteering for the Salvation Army. It wasn't particularly heroic of me; it was mostly just to make myself feel a little better. Mostly I just stood around and got in the way. I ran some errands and sorted out donations for a few hours until it became clear that fewer people would be more efficient, and then I came home. It was crazy up there; the faces of New Yorkers unbelievably unguarded and sad, strangers making eye contact and starting to weep, truckloads full of donations arriving from small towns in Ohio, giant bins full of candy and snacks, jobs that two guys could’ve done being botched up and argued over by groups of eight, firemen sacked out piled on top of each other on the sidewalk, army guys ogling leggy club girls who were signing up to volunteer, helicopters lifting off and landing nearby, motorcades with fluttering flags attached to their antennae bullying their way through traffic with their sirens bleeping, and, always visible to the south, the smoke still rising from the wreckage a week later, and that vast, shocking vacant space in the sky, looming a thousand feet over the city.

For the record, I do hope they rebuild the towers, exactly as they were before, as if to say, No--you have not touched us. The wound has healed over without a scar. Apparently you don't understand: we are the wealthiest, most powerful nation that has ever existed in the history of the planet. You may have bankrupted your whole organization carrying out that plane attack, but it was still less than we spent last weekend seeing American Pie II. We can build those two towers a thousand times over with the change under our collective couches. And I think that our real revenge will probably be economic: the ultimate triumph of crass American capitalism over pathetic Medieval fanaticism. Although I've always detested crass American capitalism here at home, I endorse its use as a weapon of war abroad. Rather than annihilate our enemies, I'd like to see them all wearing McDonald's uniforms and nametags, earning minimum wage--which in Afghanistan would be very, very low indeed. I'd be the first customer to belly up to the counter: "Yeah, that plane attack was pretty clever, but I asked you to Supersize those fries. Plus you didn't give me a receipt, so I get 'em for free. How about it?"

Sorry to sound like an asshole, everyone, but hey--I'm an American.