Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Updated 02/01/06

Artist's Statement

I fear this is the worst cartoon I have turned in in quite some time. I just could not make it be funny. It was as though I were no longer a funny person, and had forgotten how it was done. Partly I blame my isolation from all of my hilarious friends whose ideas I routinely steal for material. This was complicated by the fact that I spent the whole week in the Magic Kingdom. This is not a euphemism for some opiate stupor (see last week’s regrettable poppy-tea episode) but a literal reference to the Magic Kingdom in Disneyworld. My mother, who turned seventy this week, decreed that our entire family—her, my sister, her husband, their two children, and me, should celebrate the occasion in Disneyworld. I had a better time at Disneyworld than those familiar with my work might expect, but it’s not an environment conducive to concentration. We were staying at the Wilderness Lodge, a kind of architectural fantasia on the theme of a Pacific Northwest lodge, with a fake waterfall and geyser, a vast wood-beam-construction atrium, massive, towering totem poles, and a stone fireplace five stories tall. All day long ubiquitous invisible speakers played movie-cliché Western music—Copland, Grofé, the soundtracks to The Magnificent Seven and Silverado. Luckily I happen to be a huge fan of this kitsch or else I might very soon have been driven mad by its incessant repetition. What with the vastness of the interior, the burnished wood, and Indian designs, I was strongly reminded of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. The grounds were plagued with grackles, who swooped on young children to steal Cheet-os out of their hands. They would land on my balcony and walk boldly up to the threshold of my room until I shooed them away. When I discovered that the Territory Lounge had a bottle of Lagavulin, my favorite scotch, and that there were hot tubs outside, it was all over.

I took a day off from going to theme parks with my family and tried to work on my cartoon at one of those sad tables in hotel lobbies where you can tell nobody has ever sat, a rather nice desk in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright. All I accomplished was to drink an entire pot of room service coffee and read the New York Times, which made me angry and depressed--traditionally Step 1 of The Process. Apparently it was big news that Oprah Winfrey had given some televised dressing-down to the author of the purported memoir A Million Little Pieces. I for one was shocked—shocked!—to learn that this celebrated drug addict and criminal was a liar. I guess as a longtime fan of Hunter Thompson’s I am more comfortable with a blurring of the fiction/nonfiction line than the average Oprah Book Club member. Or maybe I’m just less gullible. Have none of Oprah’s viewers ever read anything before? Are they aware that not everything you read is true? Anyway, since when did we decide to start holding anyone in public life accountable for lying? And why did we decide to start with this guy, instead of, say, The President? Everyone’s outraged because some writer claims to be a hardened criminal and really isn’t, whereas the President claims to be a Godly man but he’s killed thirty thousand people for no reason and no one’s calling him on that?

Also I learned that a slim majority of American polled supports the government’s illegal wiretapping program so long as they’re eavesdropping on Americans they consider “suspicious.” I cannot begin to express my contempt for anyone willing to give up any of their civil liberties in exchange for some illusory security. If they could give up theirs without me also having to give up mine, I’d say fine, go right ahead, you frightened little babies. Unfortunately their craven acquiescence means I have to lose my birthright as an American citizen, too, so instead I must say, over my dead body, you filthy traitors. You may only ever use your constitutional rights during hunting season, but I use mine every week, and unlike you slaves I’m willing to fight to keep mine. Remember Patrick Henry? Give me liberty or give me death. He wasn’t fucking kidding. Nowadays it’s more like, “Oh, please take my liberty, take it, just please don’t let me die!” The fear of death (code word: security) has now become the central value in American society. Those cowards who are willing to give up their civil liberties--the freedoms for which our founding fathers pledges their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor--don’t deserve to call themselves Americans.

It was after reading this poll that I gave up, for neither the first nor, probably, the last time, on any hope that our current flirtation with authoritarianism was just a passing spasm, a kind of mass hysteria or psychotic episode from which America would soon recover. Why do I keep even hoping this? I’m betting with my heart instead of my head—a classic gambler’s fallacy. Giving up wishful thinking and looking dispassionately at the facts, it’s clear that we have a far-right, warlike theocratic junta in charge of our country not because most Americans have been temporarily duped but because that’s exactly what they want. Horrifying as it is to contemplate, I fear the Republican party may actually reflect the will of the people. Americans are a bunch of gullible Creationist fag-bashing dumbfucks. It’s time to accept that this is no longer the country I grew up in, where it was socially unacceptable to be bigoted, the Freedom of Information Act could be passed, and an antiwar comedy could be the most beloved show on TV. It’s not America anymore; it’s Murika. I used to imagine that a thousand years from now if people remembered nothing else about the ancient Americans they would know that we had walked on the Moon. Lately I’m staring to think they word Americans will someday have the same sort of loathesome connotation as Mongols, Huns, or Nazis.

On my last day in the Magic Kingdom my mother and I went to the Hall of Presidents. There, to my horror, I learned that the animatronic George W. Bush now gives a speech about freedom and equality. This was the only time in my life I am ever likely to listen voluntarily to an entire speech by George Bush. He was far more eloquent than in real life. He said that any time someone tries to take away people’s rights in this country, someone else always speaks up against it and things are eventually set right--“Yeah, until recently,” I hissed. It was the kind of casual, oblivious hypocrisy that always reduces me to apoplexy, just like in real life. He was followed by Abraham Lincoln, who, even as a robot, is a much better speaker. “Our fight is not just for today,” he reminded me, “but for the vast future.” Yes. Right. I stand with Robot President Lincoln, even if we speak to an empty auditorium, until the day we’re shut down for good.


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