Editorial page cartoons are meant to rile us up. That is why I generally like them, even when I disagree with the point of view. But sometimes, the artist goes too far. And then it is up to the newspaper or magazine editorial authorities to refuse space to the cartoon. I experienced one such cartoon recently in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. I wrote the following letter to the editor, which remains unpublished. So I am sharing it here. But first, the cartoon itself. The artist, Robert Ariail is very talented and I have often enjoyed his very pointed humor. I leave it to you . . . (and of course this appeared before Mr. Wiener made himself look even more ridiculous than before–but that does not change my fundamental point about the use of these offensive images).
To the Editor:
I am disturbed by the cartoon on the editorial page for Thursday, July 11, showing two former New York elected officials, Anthony Wiener and Eliot Spitzer, running like rats.
I understand the reference, and can appreciate the cleverness–although as a person of faith and ordained minister, I hope I am more charitable. Both are accomplished public servants and have done much good, despite their shaming (of themselves and their families, and the voters who elected them) behavior. I am glad that I do not live where I would have to decide whether to vote for them or not.
But what really disturbs me is how the cartoonist appears to have drawn upon ugly Jewish stereotypes from the past to draw these two men. Shame! I say “the past,” but when I see repeated today the way the Nazis pictured Jews (as rats with long noses), and when I read about continuing anti-Semitism (and its relative in anti-Islamic and anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian prejudice, and U.S. white supremacy and racism), I realize the past is still with us.
We have much to do to erase prejudice based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender and gender expression and identity, age, and physical and mental abilities.
This cartoonist (and the one who sometimes uses racist references and drawing to refer to President Obama in the T-D) is not helping. I ask you to exercise more editorial care in choosing these cartoons.