Gallery of art and thoughts

The cartoons and contemplations of a twentysomething copy editor.

Friday, January 28, 2005

A global problem

Yesterday evening, I attended an educational event sponsored by Jewish InterAction at MIT. The speaker was a former IDF colonel, Miri Eisin, who talked about Israel's portrayal in the media, American and otherwise.

During the Q&A, I asked Col. Eisin what makes suicide bombers go through with their missions -- how can a person choose to blow him- or herself up? She told me that the practice is not unique to the Palestinian suicide bombers -- that it began in Sri Lanka -- and that Tel Aviv University has done a study of some suicide bombers who have survived. The primary motivation, she said, seems to be ideological.

A perusal online locates this article, which gives a history of suicide bombings and seems to indicate that this heinous atrocity surfaced in Lebanon. The BBC has a comprehensive description of the Tamil Tigers' suicide campaigns. But what is it that makes people do this? From what I can find, the answers seem to include religion, ideology, persuasion by a charismatic leader, personal hardship, and a desire for vengeance.

The U.S. was jolted into an awareness of the danger posed by suicide bombers on Sept. 11, 2001. The nation, and the global community, must work together to eradicate the roots of suicide bombing. But as these articles indicate, these problems are maddeningly difficult to solve.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Fourth edition

Israel Cartoon 4
Originally uploaded by SoxIn18.
Here's Part Four in the ongoing cartoon series about my Israel trip. I'm going to try to draw two new ones each weekend from here on out, leaving the weekdays free for writing. I hope this proves a workable arrangement.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Another cartoon

Israel Cartoon 3
Originally uploaded by SoxIn18.
Here's Part III of the cartoon series. Next up, cartoons that are actually set in Israel. I hope to do one today, as I'll be cooped up at home for much of the morning and afternoon; we received at least two feet of snow last night.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Blue-state blues

Less than 24 hours remain before President Bush delivers his second inaugural, and for liberals like me, this is truly the winter of our discontent. Despite 55 million people voting for John Kerry in November, turnout proved still stronger for Dubya, and Bush enters Term Two with a solidified grip on Congress and a chance to add more conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

It's a hard time to be a blue-state resident (don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts) and a young person (although, at 26 years old, I'm starting to feel my age). The rest of the republic has rejected the liberal mantle of Massachusetts, New York, California and ... not too many other states. Thank God for the cities -- if it weren't for them, Kerry's numbers would have been truly dismal. Why doesn't mainstream America like the blue states? States like Massachusetts are blessed with plenty of opportunities -- educational, cultural, and social. We're not even as liberal as people claim; all three states I just mentioned have Republican governors. Karl Rove and company have unfairly demonized blue states, just as Massachusetts liberals stereotype the South.

Meanwhile, the right's development of a presence on college campuses is showing increasing strength -- as this article from the Wall Street Journal attests. Liberals may cringe, but this is a positive change -- in a truly welcoming environment, all voices must be listened to. Neither left nor right has learned this; the periods of McCarthyism and political correctness bear this out. The college campus should be a place where ideas are discussed freely, not censored for fear of offending someone.

The interesting aspect of this article is that it points to a new kind of Republican: many of the college conservatives interviewed support gay marriage. This can be attributed to the fact that many of these students likely grew up watching gay characters on TV and in the movies and thus are more comfortable with the view -- which I support -- that gay people should have equal rights in society, and that this equality extends to marriage. Given that President Bush has mentioned a possible constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, it would be interesting to talk with some of these young Republicans and see how they balance their beliefs.

Two last points: As always, when a journalist writes an article about college campuses, s/he neglects the "hard science" side. This is probably because most journalists didn't focus too much on math or science courses while they were in college, and (consciously or not) assume that every undergrad, or at least every undergrad worth talking to, is a humanities major.

Second, the article is mostly about students from elite schools -- Harvard, Princeton, Columbia. Almost no mention of state schools. And what about community colleges? Conservative scribes love to criticize the Ivies, because those are the schools that grab readers' attention. Were they to focus on non-Ivy schools, their results might be much different -- emerging conservatism is not a new trend. "Students I interviewed who attended Southern schools said that right-of-center kids were in the majority and set the tone," writer Brian Anderson notes -- in a revealing statement buried deep within the story. Then he betrays himself further, quoting a Clemson junior, Andrew Davis, who says that "'the typical student is Republican,' though most don't care much about politics."

A postscript: How useful is this article, anyway? We young people make lousy voters, even though we did turn out in larger numbers for the election. It's the old folks who are dependable. Also, despite the reputed liberality of campuses such as Harvard, where do the best and brightest go after graduation? To the McKinseys, Goldmans and J.P. Morgans. Maybe the promise of the ivory tower is to have the best of both worlds: liberal worldview, conservative largesse. Of course, most college kids come from fairly affluent homes to begin with. But their liberalism was always so moving, if ephemeral. It's sad to see it wane.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Martin Luther King Jr. remembered

It's a day late, but that's no reason to pass by an opportunity to remember the man and his legacy. Dr. King brought the civil rights movement over the proverbial mountaintop thanks to his use of nonviolent techniques. His "I Have a Dream" speech transfixed a nation and provided a call that resonates today.

Of course, his work is not done. To quote another 1960s visionary, Robert F. Kennedy, "There were people who were poor and who needed help," and that remains true today. Dr. King eventually broadened his appeal to include poor people across the nation and the world, and was assassinated while planning a "Poor People's March." Like Malcolm X, Dr. King expanded his constituency across racial boundaries -- although Malcolm chose religion as a means of uniting people, while Dr. King chose income level/social class.

Social critics say that class is one of the last taboos of American society. While we obsess over wealth on TV and in the print media, we find it difficult to admit that the amount of money that someone has can be just as determining a factor of advancement as ethnicity. Does anyone really think that a child who grows up in the Mississippi Delta has the same shot at success as one raised on the Upper East Side? Rural poverty may be the greatest hardship a child faces -- his counterpart in a city will, theoretically, at least have access to resources such as better educational options.

Upon seeing the desolation of the Delta, Bobby Kennedy exclaimed that he had done "nothing" with his life before his visit. Perhaps, in seeking to aid the economically depressed across the nation, Dr. King had the right idea.

Second installment

Israel Cartoon 2
Originally uploaded by SoxIn18.
Here's Part 2 of the cartoon story. I need to buy some more Bristol board (and will probably make my first post-Israel trip to Pearl Paint today as a result). Be of good cheer -- more cartoons are coming. And this time, I mean it.

Monday, January 17, 2005

A new chapter

Israel Cartoon 1
Originally uploaded by SoxIn18.
I'm at work on a new cartoon series -- this one about my trip to Israel. Here is the first installment. I'll try to add new ones as regularly as possible.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The civilization of clashes

Got back from Israel last Friday to discover that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is very much in the news (see previous post). There have been quite a few op-eds on the subject of the Palestinian elections, with both Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal and Natan Sharansky expressing cautious hope. This, however, came before the violence in the Gaza Strip.

It's possible to be pessimistic about the elections. Some sources say turnout was low, although others describe it as heavy. Ironically, both of these articles use different explanations for the same result: that voting was extended for two hours. Still, the Post's story seems likelier. Israelis probably wouldn't want Palestinians voting in East Jerusalem -- which was shown the last time Palestinians voted for a leader. And there are other problematic signs. Hamas and Islamic Jihad both boycotted the election (although Hamas may have urged voters to choose Moustafa Barghouti as a means of cutting into Abbas' margin). How long can the Abbas government last? Will it be impotent, corrupt, or both?

On to more fundamental matters. Josef Joffe, writing in Foreign Policy, poses a fascinating question: How stable would the Middle East be if Israel did not exist? His answer is equally compelling: The region would remain in turmoil, and might be worse off. Joffe notes that Muslims have fought Muslims as often as they have battled Israelis -- for instance, in the cases of the Iran-Iraq war and in Saddam Hussein's repression of the Kurds. He cites other problems that cannot be explained away by blaming Israel: Sixty-five million Muslims who are illiterate, governments that deny women equal rights, a profusion of mukhabarat (secret police) states. The Palestinians would still lack a state, and the US would still be loathed.

Is this all wishful thinking? Joffe's argument largely makes sense. The region has always been troubled. The Jews of the Bible were a feisty group -- they battled to regain their land following the exodus from Egypt, and they battled to retain it. But the instability in the region did not end following their dispersal after the Bar-Kochba revolt. In later centuries, the area was a battleground between Muslims, Persians, and Byzantines; and in the age of the Crusades, Muslims fought each other as often as they did Franks and Mongols. Even when the land was ostensibly united under what was arguably the greatest Muslim empire of all, the Ottomans, disunity still created problems -- most notably during the revolt of Muhammad Ali in Egypt in the mid-19th century. Joffe may be on to something, something that could silence the yammering of European anti-Semites, Noam Chomsky, and the Socialist Worker. Then again, nothing could silence that troika.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Difficult times in Israel

Less than a week after the election of Mahmoud Abbas as the new leader of the Palestinians, troubles have already arisen. Two attacks in the Gaza Strip have claimed the lives of six Israelis. The attacks were carried out by the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of the Fatah movement of the Palestinian Authority. Al-Aksa claimed the attacks were made in response to the assassination of one of their leaders.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has severed relations with Abbas as a result of the attacks. While it is understandable that he would do so, Sharon would have done better had he kept his goal of meeting with Abbas. Breaking off ties shows militants that they can disrupt the peace process through violence.

For too long, the Palestinians were led by Yasir Arafat, a man who rejected or undermined every peace proposal dangled his way. Abbas does not seem like much of an alternative -- his doctoral thesis stated that the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust was less than one million, and claimed that the reason for the generally accepted figure of six million was due to a Zionist conspiracy. However, Abbas did show a modicum of resolve when he resigned his position as prime minister in 2003 following differences with Arafat. Perhaps Abbas will prove just as intractable a foe as Arafat once was, but given that he has just assumed his new position, Israelis should give him more of a chance.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Talkin' 'bout my generation...

As I'm sure countless other pundits have noted, we are halfway through the 2000s. How faraway the Y2K panic seems. There we were, glutted with dreams of dot-com fortunes, a young generation much like that of the 1920s, when the cataclysmic shock of Sept. 11, 2001, changed our perception of our world.

How will today's young people (and by "young" I mean "haven't gone to college yet") enter adulthood? What kind of people will they become? My generation, the tail end of Gen-X or the advent of Generation Y, was raised in a largely liberal incubator. Nurtured (probably not the right word) on a diet of political correctness, we grew up in a tolerant climate, taught that diversity is vital to democracy (a belief with which I agree). I think that today's youth will continue in that trend, despite any questions raised by the Gratz and Grutter lawsuits.

However, I believe that young people are developing a steelier worldview, one sharpened by 9-11. They will probably be more likely to turn to faith to help them deal with their fears. Whereas independence was key to my generation -- studying abroad, moving out early, marrying late -- I foresee that today's teenagers will be more group-centric, and their tolerance will not come without demands: i.e., you can join our team, but you have to play by our rules.

Having some faith is good. Maybe the tripe on TV, in movies, and in pop culture in general has left us bereft of a sense of standards. Perhaps my generation was too smart and sassy for its own good. Yet a lurch to the right would worry me. The Left needs to figure out a way to make itself more attractive to younger people and provide a viable alternative to the Right.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Every frog has his day

Saturday's highlight was seeing the frog exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. Other interesting sections of the museum I was able to see included the exhibits on the Northwest Pacific Indians (which included a longboat) and small North American mammals. The frog exhibit was worth the trip -- seeing so many different species was amazing, from our "own" American bullfrog (an import, actually) to the Mexican dumpy frogs to the tiny poisonous frogs. It was also delightful to hear the different mating cries of the frogs: the grunting of the pig frog and the bullfrog's call. This was a wonderful opportunity to see some cute (yet, in some cases, dangerous) animals and realize the beauty and diversity of Nature. It was, however, also disheartening to learn about the damage inflicted upon the populations of these frogs due to human and other activity: worldwide, scientists have noted significant declines among frog populations in the last half-century. Often, the tinier the species is, the more helpless it is to protect itself against larger forces. I know that there's no concrete reason for us to help these little guys out ... but something about protecting the wonders of Nature should appeal to even the hardest human heart.

Of the previous year: Let us call it the Year of the Scream, at least politically. It began with Howard Dean hollering his way into obscurity in Iowa, but by its end the yelling became bipartisan: Zell Miller losing his cool against Chris Matthews during the convention, for instance. Seeing Bush win a second term was dispiriting. This article, a review of the book "What's the Matter with Kansas?", shows some of the ways the Republicans have solidified their base, and explains that, despite the Democrats' traditional allegiance to the working poor, they have hurt their base over the past decade. Two reasons the Republican Revolution passed in 1994? NAFTA and the budget bill, both of which were delivered by Clinton.

As for the next year: May emergency supplies reach the beleaguered people of Southeast Asia speedily and effectively. In light of our government's relatively ungenerous assistance -- when you balance it out, our $35 million amounts to each citizen contributing less than a dollar; it's also 0.14 percent of our gross national income -- it falls on us to do more via private donations. Want your dollars to be spent wisely? Perhaps this site will help.