The Sorensen Monologues

In the Minority

I spent a lot of time last week reading Muslim cartoonists’ responses to Charlie Hebdo, as well as interviewing some myself. Many hold complex views like the one in the fifth panel of this cartoon. All support free speech and deplore the attacks, despite having varied opinions on Charlie. Many operate under threats themselves. Some mention cartoonist Naji al-Ali, who was assassinated in London in 1987. Most Westerners don’t even know about this.

I haven’t seen any cartoons yet from the perspective of a French Muslim immigrant wrestling with these difficulties. One Charlie cover, in reference to killings of Muslims in Egypt during the 2013 coup d’etat, showed a Muslim man holding a Koran, both being sprayed with bullets under the caption “The Koran is shit.” Were this a Jew holding the Talmud, we would rightly recognize that as anti-Semitic. To say such a cartoon in this context is only about religious cosmology is a narrow, literalist interpretation worthy of our current Supreme Court. Religion and identity are hopelessly intertwined here, amidst a backdrop of history that hasn’t always been pretty.

I’ve seen a number of statements to the effect that we cannot — must not — talk about the Charlie Hebdo cartoons because that would be tantamount to blaming the victims. To be clear, I disagree with the Pope’s oddly-pugnacious phrasing that if one mocks religion, one can expect a punch. That’s a very unsettling way of putting it that excuses violent behavior. I do, however, agree with many Muslim cartoonists that we can blame the terrorists AND exercise our freedom of expression to talk about the cartoons. We can hold these two thoughts in our head. They are not mutually exclusive.



Announcing my new gig: Graphic Culture

TwitterLogoSome of you have noticed a lack of activity here on the blog, and later posting of cartoons than usual. This is because I have started working as Comics Editor for Fusion, a new media company from ABC and Univision. If you aren’t familiar with Fusion, it’s both a cable channel and digital news outlet aimed at diverse young adults. (It’s OK if you’re not a young adult — you can still enjoy it.)

Last fall, we launched Graphic Culture, a collection of cartoons, comics, and longer-form graphic journalism pieces, as well as occasional animation and articles about cartoonists. The site is still in “Beta” — a whole new site, and Graphic Culture front page, is coming soon. But I invite you to check it out now. We’ve published lots of great stuff already, including this roundup Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

If you’d like to help out, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I’m very glad to be able to create new opportunities for cartoonists and bring new comics projects into the world.

So now you know why I haven’t been blogging much. I have a good excuse!


Shootings over cartoons: A cycle of sadness

Some people have misread this to think I am blaming the cartoonists for the attacks. That was not my intention at all; the terrorists are 100% to blame — it all starts with them. (I am probably more supportive of taking aggressive measures against ISIS than some of my peers.) What I am addressing are some of the vile comments and yes, a few very ugly, hateful cartoons against all Muslims that have come out over the past week in response to the shootings. All of this plays right into terrorists’ hands of baiting the West, stirring up culture war, and furthering their agenda of recruitment. I see a return to a Bush-era, post-9/11 mentality, and that’s a movie I just can’t stand to watch again. If a desire for de-escalation and greater distinction between terrorism and Islam makes me blasphemous, then maybe I am, in my own strange way, Charlie Hebdo.

Also: the use of “Religion X” was not done out of fear of terrorists, as some have suggested; that didn’t even occur to me. The cartoon is intended as a parable so that we can get around preconceptions.



Quiz Time: Back-turning NYPD edition



When is torture torture?

It’s safe to say that if the acts described in the torture report had been committed against American troops, people like Dick Cheney would be singing a different tune.



Pride and Prejudice posters in Etsy shop

I’ve opened an Etsy shop for my “Pride and Prejudice Illustrated” posters. For those of you who are new to the blog, I was commissioned by NPR Books to draw Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” as a one-page comic for the 200th anniversary of the novel. Let me just say these are the perfect gift for the Jane Austen fan in your life. Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice Poster
Yes, it’s the entirety of “Pride and Prejudice” condensed into one comic strip, printed on heavy paper stock with a soft, silky finish, and hand-signed by the cartoonist herself (er, me). Ships within 1-3 business days. Order now to get one by Christmas!



Exclusive dining in the Ivy League

Buried amidst discussion of another campus scandal last week was this mind-boggling report from the New York Times about a Princeton University eating club. The Tiger Inn, it turns out, didn’t admit women until 1991 — and only after the Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal. 1991! The year the Cold War ended! Which somebody apparently forgot to tell these guys, who seem to long for the Mad Men era.

One female Princeton alum who belonged to the Tiger Inn confirms this is pretty much the case.



Better call Police-Pal Prosecutor

To me, the most questionable parts of Officer Darren Wilson’s testimony were his over-the-top descriptions of Michael Brown. According to Wilson, Brown “had the most intense, aggressive face I’ve ever seen on a person. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon. That’s how angry he looked.” Wilson also says, “At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots.”

Now, I didn’t know Michael Brown personally. But Brown had several bullets in his body before Wilson fired the fatal shot, and the kid was stoned. How fast could he possibly have been moving? Witnesses are all over the map on this one.

I don’t doubt that Darren Wilson was afraid. I think he freaked out and used excessive force. In his retelling — and most likely in his own mind as events were unfolding — he turned Brown into a cartoon character, a CGI-enhanced Hollywood supervillain.

A public trial might have shed further light on the case, but thanks to Prosecutor McCulloch’s refusal to recuse himself due to his obvious conflict of interest, it looks like true justice will not be served. More on his misuse of the grand jury process here.

 

 

 



Grandpa Perkins’ Thanksgiving Tirade

Everything about the Ferguson decision was bad, including the timing of the announcement, which came just after my cartoon deadline. But you wanted to hear what Grandpa Perkins has to say anyway.

Many people have the feeling that the country has seen better days, that we’ve lost our small town roots and values. But instead of looking to factors like corporate chains replacing local businesses, the spread of low-paying jobs, sprawl, and the sucking sound of Wall Street hoovering up the nation’s wealth, millions of Americans have been led to believe that immigrants are to blame. Then they do their shopping at places like Walmart and the cycle continues.



Life in the Billionaire Bubble

The billionaire in question is one Paul Singer, who wrote an epic screed to his investors about the “fake” economic numbers coming out of Washington. Singer issued the following caveat:

check out London, Manhattan, Aspen and East Hampton real estate prices, as well as high-end art prices, to see what the leading edge of hyperinflation could look like

Now, it seems to me that other factors may be coming into play here. For example, when 1% of the world’s population holds as much wealth as the bottom half, you’re going to see some pressure on those Picasso price points. It’s a clash of the titans — titans with near-infinite resources to spend impressing each other to death!

When you see the price of luxury homes as a more reliable indicator of inflation than the price of milk or gas — or government data showing that inflation is under control — it says more about your limited, paranoid perspective than anything else.



Low-information Nation: Midterm Elections Edition

A couple articles inspired this cartoon. First, this piece from September, about Kentucky voters who love the state’s new health insurance exchange (Kynect) but still disapprove of the Affordable Care act:

“I’m tickled to death with it,” Ms. Evans, 49, said of her new coverage as she walked around the Kentucky State Fair recently with her daughter, who also qualified for Medicaid under the law. “It’s helped me out a bunch.”But Ms. Evans scowled at the mention of President Obama — “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that,” she explained — and said she would vote this fall for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, who is fond of saying the health care law should be “pulled out root and branch.”

Then there was this piece about disillusionment with Washington last Wednesday. It was full of quotes by people angry about gridlock, but not quite grasping its source:

And in Racine, Wis., Jeffrey Kowalczuk, a 56-year-old account representative for a trucking company, seemed no less disillusioned than Ms. Pizarro after voting for Republicans in that critical state.  “I’m just tired of all the fighting and bickering,”  he said. “We’re all Americans. It’s just getting old with all that stuff.”

That would be from a man who ostensibly voted for SCOTT WALKER. The article concluded:

“Obama has not accomplished what he promised to the community,” said Juan Neyra, 69, a retired security guard in Denver. He said he used to vote for Democrats, but this year had voted for the Republican Senate candidate, Representative Cory Gardner, who was challenging Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat. “And Udall supports Obama,” Mr. Neyra said.

Straight outta the GOP playbook.

 




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Jen Sorensen is a nationally-syndicated political cartoonist whose work has appeared in The Progressive, The Nation, Daily Kos, Austin Chronicle, NPR, Ms., Politico, and many other publications. The recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, she tweets at @JenSorensen.

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