Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Complaint Department

and other reader concerns

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Apr 21, 2009

To the Editors:

Re: Editorial cartoon (Forum section, April 24, 2009)

If we, as a community, can justifiably take a stand against hateful cartoonists such as Sean Delonas of the New York Post, then we ought to speak out just as forcibly when we come across cartoons with similarly hateful messages that target other groups, such as people with disabilities.

I was angered and disappointed to see such a cartoon in the Washington Blade on April 24, which mocked New York Gov. David Paterson’s blindness. The LGBT community faces many challenges from a homophobic society, yet shows an appalling indifference to those who possess physical differences. The way we cling to a culture that often praises physical perfection above all else does nothing to advance our cause and only succeeds in alienating us from our allies and each other.

I would like to see the Blade issue an open apology to our staunch ally Gov. Paterson, and to the disability community at large. After such a gross display of disrespect, it’s the very least you could do.



To the editor and readers of the Blade:

In response to the letter by Eric Peterson in this week's Blade, I am writing to apologize for my recent cartoon about New York Governor David Paterson. In drawing the cartoon, I had worried that some readers might perceive it as a slam against the Governor's blindness rather than, as I was intending, a comment on LGBT leaders' unreadiness when he brought marriage rights issues to the fore.

Please accept my explanation that while the cartoon took Governor Paterson's blindness as a given condition, I in no way wanted readers to think that the cartoon was attacking him for it. I appreciate Governor Paterson's extraordinary courage and leadership on this issue, and I hope the drive for marriage equality in New York proves successful.

I thank Mr. Peterson for his thoughtful response to the cartoon, and I sincerely apologize.

Paul Berge

Not all responses to editorial cartoons are complaints, actually. Once in a while, someone writes in to say how much they liked a particular cartoon. This one was printed in the Seattle Gay News, May 2, 2003:

Dear SGN,

I just wanted to thank you for something that may sound trivial, but it is an important validation for some of us. I was very pleased to see that one of the men in your cartoon has long hair. There are many long haired men in the Gay community and too often we get "attitude" from the fashion police who seem to desire some uniform or clone-like haircut. It is nice to see this inclusion in light of on going discussions in the SGN about cliques and exclusivity in our community. I know that issues of race and class are more important, but it I wanted to acknowledge this positive step.


Thanks, LDM. I try to be inclusive in my cartoons, although I frankly had never considered being inclusive when I decided to give one of the characters in that cartoon long hair. When I am intentionally inclusive, you'll find Black, Hispanic, Asian, Islander or Native Americans in my cartoons for no particular reason (running the risk of having some reader think that I'm trying to make a comment about whatever non-white ethnic group I draw). As for giving people different hairstyles... well, maybe somewhere down deep inside, I'm a frustrated stylist at heart.

While I was happy to read LDM's letter, I was a little astonished to read a smattering of responses in later editions of SGN accusing him of being whiny. I had no idea what a touchy subject hair length is in Seattle.

Moving on. Message to my syndicate editors, April, 2004:

Kudos to Paul Berge for being a fantastic cartoonist!!! The latest one in
the Seattle Gay News about marriage vs civil unions is the best ever!!! We
sent a paper copy to a lot of people who don't have access to the paper.

It is brilliant!!!


Gaile Gamble

Aw, shucks. Warn't nuthin.

After the November 22, 2007 edition of the Bay Area Reporter included one of my cartoons in which a white gay male wearing an "Equal Rights For Me" t-shirt ran through his reasons why one group after another ought to be sidelined in the fight for equal rights, the BAR ran this letter. I was relieved at the reassurance that the character's opinions were not mistaken as my own:

Thanks for the editorial cartoon about boundary-marking our "LGBT movement" and community.

Our LGBTIQQA communities and movements even include some folks who are straight (totally or mainly) – such as straight spouses and lovers of bisexuals, parents and kids and relatives of queers, housemates, "fruit flies" (fag magnets), most leather-folk, members of MCC and PFLAG and ACLU and Amnesty, and more.

When your would-be sistah approaches, ask not "Who do you think you are?" Ask instead, "Will you try to help us queers in our struggles to liberate humanity?"

Tortuga Bi Liberty

San Francisco

In the interest, however, of reducing the swelling of my head, LoriCMT writes:

I see no social or intellectual reason for your website other than hatred for the Right. I bet you loved Fahrenheit 9/11.

It must be hatred for the right if I stand up to oppose their incessant attacks on me and my family.

And, by the way, I haven't seen Fahrenheit 9/11 yet, but thanks for the recommendation.

P.S. to Troy J__: Here you go; your 1998 letter is removed. No hard feelings, I hope.

© 2009 Paul Berge

Remove "NOSPAM" from the mailto: address above, and please give your e-mail a subject line which distinguishes it from the dozens of spam messages that come every day. I try to respond to as many letters as I can -- thanks for reading!

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