I finished drawing this cartoon in December, 2016, and finished coloring it around June of last year. It was inspired by the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which the United States has helped Saudi Arabia exacerbate since July, 2015. It was furthermore based on a similar idea I first attempted as far back as 2011, which addressed a different conflict, but never coalesced to a satisfying degree.
Which conflict was the older idea about? Syria? Libya? I honestly don’t remember. Could’ve been Iraq or Afghanistan.
Does it even matter? The point remains the same, regardless: In a time of unprecedented plenty, as well as an ability to meet the basic needs of every person on Earth, America’s number one material and cultural export remains warfare.
The image of starving, dark-skinned children being served bombs instead of food by Uncle Sam would have been relevant at just about any time during the last 68 years—practically my parents’ ENTIRE LIVES.
I sat on this cartoon for such a long time precisely because I recognized it’d remain relevant in perpetuity, and so I awaited just the “right time” to publish it, hoping for months that our horrifying actions in Yemen would eventually break through to the mainstream news, as well as the general public consciousness.
One of Saudi Arabia’s most dependable arms suppliers ran for President of the United States, and hardly anyone reported on it.
Her cartoonishly-racist opponent defeated her, was sworn in, and continued funding the siege; hardly anyone reported on it.
Instead, most critical discussion focused on a trumped-up, neo-McCarthyist canard about Russia “hacking the election”, distracting people from the genuinely worst aspects of the Trump Administration, because those aspects also benefit many of the President’s nominal “enemies,” and self-described “#Resistance ‘leaders’”: grifters and snake-oil salesmen who exploit this boogeyman just as Cold Warriors sucked blood from the threat of the Soviet Union for about 40 years.
Our media consciousness is more concerned with the President’s horrible words than with his horrible actions. Talk is cheap, and the only thing they’re really “resisting” is a cut to their bloated, superfluous, largely–undeserved salaries.
There’s probably never going to be a “right time” for this cartoon, at least insofar as it might be special according to the terms outlined above, because EVERY time is going to be the “right time” from now until ellipsis double-question mark.
That’s how normalization of unacceptable behavior works: do it for so long, and to such a “big lie” degree, that it becomes mundane background noise which people take for granted, like a slob getting so used to his own B.O. that he fails to realize how much his apartment stinks.
Many readers will surely recognize the Dr. Seuss influence on this illustration. Theodor Geisel was quite fond of drawing chefs with serving trays, and I’m fairly certain he drew this particular pose more than once, though the influence probably shows most strongly in Uncle Sam’s face, especially around the eyes.
I tried to use three slightly different styles, respectively, for Sam, the starving children, and the wealthy, old geezers contemptuously glaring from the dining hall in the background. However, I feel I didn’t push the drawing of the children to be realistic enough. The misery of the actual kids in my photo-references—who are almost certainly all dead by now—was beyond my artistic ability to capture and integrate into this design.
It was, and presumably remains every bit as bad as photographs from Auschwitz, which suggests the only thing we ultimately learned from the Holocaust was how to torture and kill masses of people as brutally and effectively as the Nazis.
Re-reading the last few paragraphs, I’m actually pretty disturbed by how clinically I’ve described the imagery. Maybe it’s because I’ve had it in my queue for a long time, but still, this just goes to show how even a person who’s trying to be fully aware of this sort of thing is susceptible to the conscience-blunting effects of relative comfort afforded to many Americans, especially a white male.
This is the kaleidoscope of privilege through which we must view our actions as individual components of a global superpower. It’s the only way even seriously marginalized members of society—to say nothing of those (still!) at the top—can truly understand what a difference they and we make, and how it depends on all of us to make that difference, to put a stop to activities like those discussed by the cartoon.
“We’re all in it together, kid!”