Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
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
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
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.