Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Event: "We'll make 'em fit! It'll be fun!"


Dear Mr. Danziger,

For several years now I've openly described your work as my very favorite of political cartoonists. Your drawing has a precision that goes beyond a canny resemblance and your cutting captions can sum up an issue in better than a thousand words. Yours is a medium in which cheap shots seem to be both available and abundant, and the care which you take in your selections has always impressed me. After all, any sane critical thinker could spend eight years pummeling the Bush administration; your statements have been fresh and trenchant, and you've had ammo left over for the Democratic primaries, for Chinese domestic and foreign policy, and for all of the other misguided and tragically uninformed errrors in American politics this decade. Which is why I'm so dismayed by the lone autoworker you have exclaiming "we'll make 'em fit! It'll be fun" as he holds an oversized croquet mallet aloft this week.

I come to this personally: practically everyone in my family has worked for GM in Flint, Michigan and Oakland County. My father worked at Buick for almost 40 years before being bought out this year because the last plant in his division (Powertrain North) has closed. My aunt worked at EDS, my grandmother was a secretary at GMI, and my grandfather made spark spugs for AC Delco from the moment he got home from World War II.

Look, I know that doing what you do you are bound to anger people, that you can't be over-sensitive to anger, that calling things as they are is inevitably going to bruise some ribs along the way.

But I've always seen you as being very selective in choosing your targets, and more importantly, in choosing their foibles. In your recent piece you show an autoworker standing like an uneducated buffoon, a "Joe V6" who doesn't know a thing (and doesn't care) about anything other than banging metal on metal. Granted in the past you've called out the American automakers for their incompetent leadership, and maybe even for your perception that our domestic automakers have produced an inferior product. I have disagreed with many of these strips, but this is the first time it seems you've crossed the line.

Actually, excuse me, that's not right.

I should say, instead, that you've failed. After all, there are no lines that you should not cross. The mark of a great political cartoonist is the ability to eloquently disagree, and to render such disagreement visceral and visual to the larger public.

But why have you abandoned the rigor of your other pieces?

Why are you taking cheap shots at our autoworkers instead of their leadership or even their product?

For that matter, if you want to criticize autoworkers, why are you holding them up as mentally incapable, instead of criticizing a union that is as stubborn as it is often ineffective? Or holding accountable a rank-and-file that is often unable to look beyond their next paycheck to address the consequences of the agenda their employer is pursuing?

Why not pick a disagreement worth stating instead of promoting inaccurate misconceptions about the education and drive of our nation's most assertive and robust union workforce?

I could disagree with you on many of these other possible arguments, but these would be disagreements worth having.

Your characterization of the auto-worker in your recent strip is trite, pointless, obnoxious, insulting, and irrelevant. It does nothing to promote a worthwhile political argument, and it is a waste of both my own and your time. I wouldn't be so disappointed if not for the fact that you are my favorite political cartoonist. I hope that the abundance of material these days doesn't mean that your standards (the standards I most admire) are slipping; one could safely argue that an informed and powerful political critique in all media are more important these days than ever.


Connor Coyne

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