Real Wealth Society

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Thinking About Cartoons By Fred Cederholm

Column for on/after Feb 5th
I’ve been thinking about cartoons. Actually I’ve been thinking about imagery, political correctness, caricatures, God, Rushdie, and Islam. The state of our present global conflict has entered a new dimension. The publication of depictions of twelve comic representations of the central figures of Islam by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and their republication globally have triggered worldwide riots and other acts of violence.

You see, images are so often used to covey a point of view, a frame of reference, or a mind set. They fire the spirit/soul and make a point. Imagery is accomplished graphically, photographically, and verbally. I am a vividly visual person who uses words to convey my thoughts and to get my point(s) across. Anyone who reads my columns should know that.

Traditionally, all is fair in love, war, and politics; or, is it? Or, should it be? In recent years we’ve seen the buzz phrase “politically correct” float to the surface. Talk about the ultimate in oxy-morons and hypocrisy. Just what has ever been correct about the exercise of politics carried to the “nth” degree? At the very core of it all, winning is everything and the limits of decency and decorum so often are abandoned to achieve the desired end.

Caricatures are a hybrid of cartoon imagery. In this form, an unflattering stereotype or physical attribute is graphically exaggerated to undercut the opposition. While outwardly funny, caricature representations can frequently cross the line to become hurtful and hateful. Next time you find yourself in front of a mirror, TH*NK about how you, or someone you love, might be portrayed in a caricature. What would be your reaction?

As a Christian of the Lutheran persuasion, I don’t have an over-riding problem with pictorial presentations on the Deity and the figures so central to my religion. It helps me in my understanding. The Bible tells us that God created man in his own image. I frequently visualize God in a nude reclining position on a cloud with an outstretched hand extending the spark of life to an equally naked Adam on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. I “see” the beauty of God in a single flower, or a butterfly. I often “see” the love of God in the faces of parents as they watch their children across a room.

I visualize Jesus the Christ from the oil painting of Him praying by the rock in the garden of Gethsemane which hangs in our church sanctuary at St John’s. I visualize Christ’s “from the cross view” of His feet and the planet Earth below from the Dali painting and TH*NK how He died for this. When I “see” the actor Charlton Heston, I TH*NK “Moses.” I know I’m not alone in this association. The actor Matt Damon once found himself standing next to Heston in the men’s room at an awards’ ceremony. Poor Matt was so shaken by the experience that he said he wasn’t physically able to complete his mission until “Moses” had left. These Moses metaphorical images, while funny, are in no way meant to be sacrilegious. This current cartoon thing is a whole lot different.

Political cartoons are meant to be provocative. Should the editors/publishers/cartoonists have realized what havoc they would reap from this so-called exercise of free expression and free speech? You’re damned right they should? One need only look to the 1988 publication of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses to know this. Rushdie was under a death threat for over a decade. A Japanese translator of the book was stabbed to death in 1991, an Italian translator was severely injured, and the Norwegian publisher also survived an assassination attempt.

The central question one should ask is how do the devout followers of Islam depict Allah and the Prophet Mohammed in their mosques worldwide and at the holy places of Mecca and Medina? The answer is simple, they don’t depict them at all. Graphic images (or portrayals of them) are forbidden as are images of all of God’s living creations. They are regarded as too sacred and too holy for such representations. While I personally do not understand this, I do respect it. We are told this conflict is against terrorism and is not a war of religions. Is it really? I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

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