Saturday, December 7, 2019

Will I Make It Through the Eighties?

Spandexback Saturday rummages through the attic today and comes down with a handful of my cartoons from the closing weeks of 1989.
"Bless Me, Father" in UW-Milwaukee Post, November 21, 1989
On November 16, 1989, priests on the campus of Central American University in San Salvador opened the doors to their residence to a cadre of El Salvador soldiers. The soldiers assassinated all six priests, as well as their cook and her daughter who had the tragic misfortune to be in the residence at the time.

As they left, the soldiers shot up the outside of the building and scrawled graffiti intended to make it appear as if the murders had been carried out by Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMNL) rebels. But there was a witness.
"Think, Mrs. Cerna" in UWM Post, November 28, 1989
I caught some grief for the UWM Post cartoon at the top of this post. Struggling to understand what editorial cartooning is supposed to be about, reader Gerald Harp wrote in a letter to the editor,
"I'm not quite sure why I objected to the cartoon, but I'm not sure why you printed it, either, so I feel justified in writing to you.
"Why did you print it? My feeling is that the cartoon was not funny, but then that may not be the point. Next, the cartoon had enormous shock potential. I was shocked, but that by itself is not a redeeming value.
"My best guess is that you were attempting to educate your readers of the atrocities in El Salvador. That is a worthy goal, but my next question is, 'are all means equally valuable in presenting a message?'
"After thinking it over, I decided you were not trying to make some kind of statement about the Catholic Church, and the soldier making an obvious mockery of something important to me, namely confession, shouldn't insult me because I'm not supposed to identify with the soldier. Still the cartoon leaves me uneasy and vaguely offended.
"I don't disagree with your sentiments, but I'd ask you to be a bit more careful in the future to separate the statement you are making from any irrelevant theme, especially if people will feel strongly about the secondary theme."
Without any trigger warning, the Post reprinted my vaguely-offending cartoon right next to Mr. Harp's letter. (Did GenX even have trigger warnings in the eighties?)
"Well Worth a Look-See" in UWM Post, December 5, 1989
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President George H.W. Bush held their first summit meeting aboard the TS Maxim Gorky off the coast of Malta on December 2. The summit was beset by gale force winds and choppy seas, inspiring my Post cartoon; navy veteran Bush was not yet known for throwing up in world leaders' laps.
"Dan, You Did a Good Job..." in UW-Parkside Ranger, December 14, 1989
In fact, both Bush and Gorbachev went into the meeting with ambitious sets of proposals and found significant areas of agreement. They declared the Cold War over, but Bush's Vice President was not quite ready to bury the hatchet. Dan Quayle joined a chorus of conservative Republicans warning against "getting caught up in the magnetic personality of Chairman Gorbachev."

A comedian named Julie Brown had recorded a song called "Will I Make It Through the '80's" in 1984. It hadn't garnered the MTV-play that her novelty hit "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun" did (humor that really has not aged well), and was largely forgotten five years later or it might have been the basis of this last cartoon.

This was another cartoon about a serious topic. Homicides in the city of Milwaukee that year reached triple digits for the first time ever: 113 homicides in all.
"I Survived 1989" in UWM Post, December 7, 1989
That number would climb even higher, to 155, in 1990.

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