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Column: Bring Us the Head of Glenn McCoy — Or Is It OK to Be Offended?

I can’t decide if I should get agitated, be amused or just remain bemused by the tempest in an inkpot surrounding the political cartoons by Glenn McCoy that occasionally pop up in the Valley News .

I always believed that journalism, if it can’t really be as impartial as it is tasked to be, at least can present multiple sides to a story. And, with fewer people reading more than written “soundbytes” — if that — these days, cartoons are becoming even more important as messengers for the media. In the Valley News, McCoy’s voice is often drowned out by more left-leaning cartoons and can’t overcome the din of much more liberal and plentiful editorial pieces. Why the brouhaha? If I were Ted Cruz, I’d say the Valley News cooked this up just to sell more newspapers.

As it is, I certainly fall into the category of small ‘l’ liberal in my leanings, but this commotion goes far beyond political correctness for my comfort. Are those letter writers calling for the head of Glenn McCoy?

Perhaps we need to hark back to the days when Doonesbury was the most controversial cartoon in print. Garry Trudeau was often censored and banned from daily newspapers for covering such topics as abortion and gay rights. Many of his cartoons were refused by editors or sent back to the drawing board. Now that he has retired, and the Valley News is currently reprinting old strips, it is interesting to note that just last week this newspaper offered a Doonesbury piece decades old in which a character comes out as gay. When it first appeared, it was national news and refused by dozens of U.S. newspapers. About that time, Senator John McCain was quoted as saying, “Suffice it to say that I hold Trudeau in utter contempt.”

Over the years, the Valley News relegated Doonesbury to the classified section, left to play among Articles For Sale, Building Supplies, Yard Sales and Marmaduke. Maybe the same should be done with McCoy. Put him in the back of the classroom with Trudeau, and they can just duke it out and throw spitballs at each other without disturbing the rest of the class or the offended reading public. It only seems fair. And balanced.

Otherwise, you really have only to look at the one-fold, color Sunday comics section for an example of diversity and peaceful cartoon coexistence. There, with the support of the male-equality contingent, Dagwood (a man who can’t stand up to his boss, his wife or his dog) is the star of a strip named for his spouse, Blondie. He shares space with Beetle Bailey, one of the most violent comics found in a family newspaper, in which the character Sarge swears up a storm in thinly veiled epithets like “ X&@#%++!!!” while beating the daylights out of an enlisted man. Every Sunday, the terrorist Hagar The Horrible lays waste to the countryside while denigrating his mother-in-law. His godless barbarism is often counterbalanced by the subtle Christian bent of B.C. But even B.C. is out-holied by the visitation of deceased Grams, Gramps and Goldfish who periodically come down from heaven to comfort or advise the members of The Family Circus. Flying above them is the avian avatar of Rush Limbaugh, Mallard Fillmore, constantly commenting on the lunacy of liberals. Then, lo and behold, below the fold, on the next page appears Doonesbury, out on work-release from its classified location.

Somehow, those four pages hold together and all those competing depictions of our lives exist without too much conflict. Sometimes a reader might carefully tear a favorite from the others to tack it on the refrigerator, but we still know that before that separation, they did all sit side-by-side and back-to-back.

If you don’t like peace, however, and, remember, cartoonish characters like John McCain are again calling for all hands on deck, perhaps we need to think about the old saying that to prepare for war, you should ‘know your enemy.” So, we liberals should listen the voice of Glenn McCoy. If you want to fight against hate, you have to confront it. If you want to change minds, you have to understand what they are already thinking.

We like to think that Garry Trudeau represents us. It shouldn’t be news that others truly believe Glenn McCoy says what is on their own minds. You can’t win over hearts and minds by closing both of your own.

Getting rid of McCoy’s cartoons in the paper would be like ridding yourself of an unwanted computer program by deleting its desktop icon, without uninstalling the files. You would no longer be confronted by an offensive reminder, but the underlying problem would still remain.

There are more intelligent ways of making the world a better place than silencing voices we are afraid to hear.

Jon Gilbert Fox is a resident of Hanover.