No Political Cartoonists Need Apply

[Personal nonsense – with broader implications in the USA. Maybe.

Charlotte, Virginia, USA witnessed the iceberg tip of the neo-Nazi/Fascist/KKK  movement today and last night, the one Donald Trump played to get into office and paid off by giving important positions to its adherents: Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller, Bannon, Gorka, etc.. Trump, of course, had nothing to say specifically condemning these terrorist White Nationalists and their rampage.  What he said was open-ended enough, the “Alt-Right” (i.e. Nazis) openly says on Twitter “he loves us.”  

I expected nothing better.

Anyway, I make political cartoons and underground comix.  I teach philosophy… when there’s work.  I’m controversial because I believe in liberal democracy, neo-Stoicism, am a sort of existentialist in the Ortega y Gasset vein… which, in the USA, now, is enough to make one so out of (goose) step with people that run things, I have a difficult time finding a teaching position.  52 years-old, excellent teaching record, excellent work record, no criminal record, better educated than many that I compete with… but, no thank you.

Misfortune?  Could be. Fate goes as it will.  Fortuna’s wheel spins.  We’ll see.

In the meantime, I send out political cartoons… hard to get published in the States, now.  Newspapers are dying, they’ve shrunk, space is at a premium.  Most get their cartoons from a syndicate — and getting syndication is not easily done, no matter how good one is.

But I popped one over to my hometown in Georgia – why?  I’m an idiot.  Nostalgia. Curiosity.  Who knows… just to see.  In the end,
I even offered the damn thing for free.  So, this is what happened thus far:]

As a friend said the other day, “Didn’t you leave Dahlonega?” Dahlonega being where I was born, raised, and after university, trapped within for an extra 16-17 years.

My response, in part, was, “It didn’t leave me…” as in, it haunts me. For a plethora of reasons, few worth mentioning, all personal. When I talk about Dahlonega, I speak with a broad brush – mainly about its worst elements, its racism, hatreds, parochialism, escapism, false history. I rarely talk about the good people, the nurturing and encouraging people – there are many and many were very good to me and for me.

Many good examples of living well and caring. Many good changes. And NGC, then NGCSU, now NGU really kept me alive, opened the world to me. That place and the professors and friends were the mercy of HaShem, the Divinity on me.

Yes, I used to write editorials in the local paper – 2001-2006 when I was banned for making about 23-25 vociferous right-wingers angry.

It doesn’t matter. Really. I got away with editorial murder – I wrote essays, not editorials. I pushed the limit every time as I figured each editorial would be my last. Until it was, to the relief of the weak and angry.

This year, from Texas, I have now submitted 2 editorial cartoons – one about Roberta Green using a pro-Klan billboard on an historical building to blackmail the city council into letting her demolish it and create an eyesore. That one did not fly as it was too “mean.”

I submitted the Stephen Miller one this past week – as I knew what would erupt in Charlottesville, VA this weekend days ago. I got a “heads-up” message.

Nope – that didn’t make it either, this time for a completely non sequitur “reason.”

Hell, it doesn’t matter my stuff won’t go in The Dahlonega Nugget. I don’t matter – I’m just a guy who thinks and makes things that are hard to see and read. Unpleasant. The part of truth I see is unpleasant. It’s my gift.

Unfortunately, no one wants to risk anything on spreading “unpleasant” around. Maybe we’ll lose customers! Maybe we’ll get angry calls! Maybe we don’t agree with this!

The First Amendment gives me no right to be published in a private paper… or anything else if the editor doesn’t approve, care, or give a damn. Or perhaps I’m just no good. I’m unsure. Them’s the breaks.

So, this is what i wrote instead – the editor did say i could write a letter to the editor. This is well under the 500 words.

So, if you’d like to follow the mini-drama of a nobody who accomplishes not much, start at the bottom, work your way up. This is the e-mail exchange. Really, just for my personal records and memory.

I’ll stick the cartoon on at the bottom as a reminder.

***
On Saturday, August 12, 2017, 6:28:24 PM MDT, Richard Van Ingram wrote:

[If you won’t run the political cartoon, run this as my letter to the editor. Thanks.]
Dear Editor,

I submitted a political cartoon of Stephen Miller, 31 year-old White Nationalist, racist working as a White House “adviser,” pretending the immigration policy which he helped design is not racist in effect and origin.

I dressed him in a Gestapo uniform with SS Nazi and Klan symbols – both for irony and to openly display what he believes.

Yet, you chose not to run it or any other political cartoonist aside from the water-thin stuff from “Powell” that holds a monopoly on the editorial page. I’m certain you have to pay him. I offered to let you run my carton free of charge. You may even run a disclaimer – I don’t care. I speak for myself, not the paper; I always did.

It’s not as if you cannot run two cartoons and even shrink mine down. It is a matter of choice on your part.

Instead, you said I may write a letter to the editor (as anyone else). Your choice – you are the editor.

So, this is the letter. My request is a response, in the paper, detailing your policy and rules for submissions of political art. If such is completely forbidden, tell us why – what’s the standard? Is there one? Is it reasonable? Ad hoc? Consistent?

In light of the Nazi terrorist riot in Virginia Friday and Saturday (11-12 August), my carton is relevant. That was on purpose. I keep up with these groups, what they plan. I knew that the rally in Charottesville, VA was going to happen – they advertized it.

The cartoon spoke directly to the occupation of our White House by fascist and Nazi advisors. Sycophants. Miller is likely to become Communications Director within the next week or so. If people had cared or paid attention well before this violence, we may have minimized the influence of these groups or slowed it.

Pretending this shift beyond far-right into racist fascism, pure immorality, is not actually happening gives it power. Satirizing and calling out its idiotic beliefs might help others think twice before drinking the Nazi-flavored Kool Aid, no matter what it calls itself.

Or not.

But if no one sees the message, that vague opportunity never occurs. If it doesn’t come from me, it should come from someone. No, I’m no one special, but I do stand up against things I am sure, by reasoning and history, are wrong. Maybe others will send you even better cartoons. If you don’t recognize this as speech, just like a letter, explain why.

Thank you,
Richard Van Ingram
***

On Thursday, August 10, 2017, 8:29:44 PM MDT, Richard Van Ingram wrote:

You’re welcome for the congratulations. You earned it.

As for writing a letter: Perhaps.
Jim Powell has had that spot in the company’s papers for quite a few years. Is he someone’s nephew? His work certainly has nothing about it to challenge or annoy… which I suppose is the point.

This is a different answer than what you told me last time when you said you’d be happy to consider running political cartoons by someone not named “Jim Powell” — and, yes, he already had that “slot” filled at that time. Logically inconsistent, but doubtless effective in delaying any possible second attempt on my (or anyone else’s) part.

Your paper, your decision.

My cartoon will shrink – easily – to fit an area of a column of 500 words. You may use it free, copyright remains mine. But I imagine space isn’t the actual issue. I really can’t waste much energy imagining what that issue might be: beyond my control.

Pictures are far more powerful and visceral than words… this kind of drawing, at any rate.

And, presently, I’m unsure I have words, 500 or less, for readers in Dahlonega. I’ll let you know tomorrow. You’ll run ’em or not if I write ’em. Them’s the breaks.

Thanks for the time.

Richard

***
On Thursday, August 10, 2017, 3:20:44 PM MDT, Matt Aiken <maiken@thedahloneganugget.com> wrote:

Hey Richard,
Good to hear from you and thanks for the congrats. I appreciate the submission but when it comes to editorial cartoons we’ve filled that slot with Jim Powell. Would you consider a letter to the editor instead? You’d have 500 words to play with if so. If interested feel free to send it my way and we’ll save you a spot.
Matt Aiken
****
On Aug 9, 2017, at 4:28 AM, Richard Van Ingram wrote:

Matt,

Congratulations on having the editorial page recognized. That page is the heart of a newspaper – any of them. That the quality has returned under your leadership speaks volumes.

Yes, I was skeptical when last you told me you were running the paper differently; I am happy to have that skepticism put to bed. A rare occurrence in this age.

Having said that, I asked last go ’round (during the Roberta Green fiasco) whether I might submit other editorial comics for consideration. You said to do so. I understand at the outset what I do may not be… acceptable. It never was. But I am of the belief my “hometown” could do with a message from its red-headed stepchild once in a while, the philosopher who also draws, is published elsewhere, and lives in a wider world both in terms of ideas and familiarity with a variety of humans.

At least, when I draw political cartoons and comix, they’re funny and brief (unlike my essays). Yes, i am vicious, but the pain passes quickly.

So, here’s a submission. You can reduce the thing and it will still look good in print, but I work large (as is usual) and send the large versions.

Let me know what you think.

Thanks,
Richard Van Ingram
#antiTrump #antiNazi #antiFascist #rejection #fuckme#TheDahlonegaNugget #Dahlonega #Georgia #fear #Amerika

 

 

11-12 August 2017

Richard Van Ingram

Stephen Miller – neo-fascist, racist follower of Jeff Sessions, AG, architect of the racist immigration policies, likely to run the White House Press Office soon.

 

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Dahlonega, Georgia, Home of the Klan Klubhouse

Roberta Green-Garrett, Klansman
Roberta Green-Garrett, Klansman

UPDATE: 15 March 2017: http://patch.com/georgia/atlanta/kkk-sign-dahlonega-incites-raw-emotions-controversy

UPDATE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/in-northern-georgia-a-kkk-banner-seemed-to-some-a-sign-of-the-times/2017/03/12/de5a3518-05bd-11e7-b9fa-ed727b644a0b_story.html?tid=sm_fb&utm_term=.c4fe2a9b8f62

http://www.forsythnews.com/section/1/article/32218/

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Free Speech; A Personal Story

Gentle reader, assuming this is read: What follows is a matter of personal history. This is a letter to the editor and publisher of The Dahlonega Nugget, Terrie Ellerbie, from 2008.  Not many months following this, I left Dahlonega finding it intolerant and intolerable — but, for me, that was nothing new.  I’d found it as such, increasingly, since the early 1970s when I began to be aware of many things about that community; I moved away to go to university in the mid 1980s with no intention of returning — yet, as Townes Van Zandt once said, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

So, HaShem saw fit to strand me, financially broke, jobless, homeless, sick back in my “hometown” — and I chose to get busy, sort of like an absurd Count of Monte Christo, and make my “prison” a place where I would learn what no university could teach, to prepare for a future I never really expected would arrive — a day when I could get in a car and drive away permanently to a different world, one which would listen to the little I had to share, read what I wrote, look at the art I made.

So, I learned.  I dealt with many sorts of people, many situations from the soul-crushing to the enlightening, and, little by little, I improved.  And I began to write freelance editorials on contemporary issues for the small local paper to share, to examine, to offer an alternative point of view; unpopular, to be certain, but one I thought needed to be heard from.  Especially as torture, concentration camps, dehumanization, and loss of civil liberties and rights became the order of the day.

I also began teaching ethics and philosophy at the local university along with my regular day job at public mental health… and dealing with a very confusing, depressing, intense personal life.

I got myself well-hated because of the writing, to paraphrase a poet.  But I also made friends, a couple permanent, maybe, most fair-weather who disappeared just as soon as I was banned — yes, banned — from being published in that paper because, ostensibly, of about twenty anonymous, unpublished complaints.

It didn’t shut me up but it did shut me down.  And I fell into a deep depression for a long while — it left a wound.  Sometimes, still, the wound seeps.  But I learned a very important set of lessons: when you stand up openly to be counted, you will be counted; there is only one of you; don’t count on anyone else who, in private, supports you, to do anything except hide when the counter-attack comes on you from the hateful and intolerant; and never expect them to come back and even speak to you after you’ve been “disposed of” by a vocal majority or the powerful.

“So it goes,” as the man often said.  

That is the life of anyone who becomes controversial or stands against injustice in a place where people believe the unjust to be their absolute right.  You’re out there by yourself. If others show up or “have your back,” that is damned good fortune.  And you never count on “good fortune” — bad fortune is what you prepare for as, really, it is far more likely.  Fear keeps good people silent, it keeps them in hiding, it causes them to censor themselves.  They are only rarely going to come out in any way when the danger of speaking up becomes greater, not lesser.

If you choose to speak up about anything that needs to be said, expect to find yourself bearing witness alone… except for the pack of wolves who come out to tear your reputation to shreds.  And maybe your livelihood… and, once in a while, your life itself.

A cautionary tale, but not a dissuasive one.  You are only what you choose to do and the inherent quality of what you choose to value and incarnate in this world through your actions.  The end.  I have no shame for that part of my life.  It was worthwhile.

After being banned, I wrote, over two years, three letters to the editor — the short farewell, which was published; a protest against a letter writer who encouraged physical violence for those who were “liberal’ — they published a heavily edited version of that; and this letter in defence of free speech in the paper, the sole public platform in that community, even for an editorialist who was a hate-monger, who had attacked me in the pages of the paper.  This one, of course, never saw the light of day.  You’ll see why should one choose to read on.

So, without further comment.

RVI, 22 February 2017

*****

“Dear Editor,

“Uncharacteristically, I will keep my words to a minimum.  This concerns your editorial comments of 27 February 2008 in “What you need to know about Moore & Martin.”

“I can sympathize with your frustrations, especially concerning the complaints about Mr. Martin’s column – but only to a point.

“You said:

‘ “We do not “endorse” any columnist, period. We publish what people write, because this is the place for that to happen. [ . . .] This is a public forum, not a private country club. We will not apologize for giving people with differing backgrounds and views a place to express themselves in their own words.
“I will say this: If you do not like what Jason Martin had to say, I suggest you muster up the courage to speak up and speak out yourself and express your own views.” ‘

“You seemed to show more than a little exasperation with your readers who won’t sign their names to complaints about Mr. Martin and those who have gotten the idea that, if they complain enough about someone expressing opinions in your paper, you will remove that person and refuse to print their columns in the future.

“Where, oh where, pray tell, could they have gotten such an idea?

“When, I wonder, was such a precedent ever set for that sort of decision-making in your paper?

“Could it have been, perhaps, a bit over a year-and-a-half ago when you publicly refused to print any more of my columns because some locals could no longer bear to be exposed to my point of view – one wholly opposed to Mr. Martin’s?

“Where was this editorial statement when a determined fragment of your readership — in some cases anonymously, in some cases not — railed that poorly written trash such as I compose should never waste ink in your fine publication again?  And all this mainly because I don’t sound or think like most people “from ’round these here parts.”

“As one of your more censorious letter writers used to say of me, “He isn’t one of us.”  Which is true enough, but in 2006 that sentiment was enough for you to publicly refuse to accept any more columns from my hand.

“So now, the tables are turned.  Your Mr. Martin has inspired a wave of people who don’t particularly want to read a column in which the writer so glibly excuses torture as “the final solution” for our nation’s terrorism problem, and don’t want to hear that “ideas and people that ain’t from ’round these here parts should leave on the road that brung ’em.”

“So they want you to ban him – which I think is a terrible idea.  By all means, let the man speak; as you say, it’s not as if what “he said is not being repeated in conversations all over this county . . ..”

“But, then again, the same could have been said in defense of my own columns.

“In Dahlonega, the local paper is the only real public platform for speech.  Therefore, it has an obligation to allow even the rude, ignorant, utterly parochial, and the crank to express an opinion.

“If it doesn’t allow that much, the paper may not print the words of anyone representing any controversial or unpopular position, even a reasonable one, whenever it becomes simply easier to silence those words.

“That’s not the sort of paper I want for my town.  It wasn’t what I wanted in 2006; it isn’t what we need now.

“Richard Van Ingram”

  • 02/29/08 at 1:41PM 
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Sometimes.

“If you see something that looks like a star
And it’s shooting up out of the ground
And your head is spinning from a loud guitar
And you just can’t escape from the sound
Don’t worry too much, it’ll happen to you
We were children once, playing with toys
And the thing that you’re hearing is only the sound of
The low spark of high-heeled boys

“The percentage you’re paying is too high priced
While you’re living beyond all your means
And the man in the suit has just bought a new car
From the profit he’s made on your dreams
But today you just read that the man was shot dead
By a gun that didn’t make any noise
But it wasn’t the bullet that laid him to rest, was
The low spark of high-heeled boys

“If you had just a minute to breathe
And they granted you one final wish
Would you ask for something like another chance?
Or something sim’lar as this?
Don’t worry too much It’ll happen to you
As sure as your sorrows are joys
And the thing that disturbs you is only the sound of
The low spark of high-heeled boys

“The percentage you’re paying is too high priced
While you’re living beyond all your means
And the man in the suit has just bought a new car
From the profit he’s made on your dreams
But today you just read that the man was shot dead
By a gun that didn’t make any noise
But it wasn’t the bullet that laid him to rest, was
The low spark of high-heeled boys (heeled boys)

“If I gave you everything that I owned
And asked for nothing in return
Would you do the same for me as I would for you?
Or take me for a ride
And strip me of everything, including my pride —
But spirit is something that no one destroys
And the sound that I’m hearing is only the sound
The low spark of high-heeled boys (heeled boys)”

TRAFFIC

“The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys”

Sometimes.

Sometimes is a bad location in the terrain of life; it is in my case.  It’s the ever-shifting space not on any map — suddenly, one arrives upon it and has no idea how long it must be endured.  It is an occasion of indefinite duration that may immediately be followed by another… and then another.  Or one may traverse it and not encounter such again for quite awhile.

How many times a day did Voltaire contemplate throwing his quills out the window, do you suppose?  How many days did this happen in a lifetime?  Physically, he could have gotten by perfectly well without writing a revolution into being — especially not knowing whether there’d be any revolution or not at the time.  Lacemakers gave him income; writing made him trouble.

But once a year on the anniversary of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, he became violently ill without fail, ran a fever, vomited, had to take to bed for a space.  All because the utter injustice and hate of it ate away at him so badly and his conscience was such that he suffered for the dead in his own flesh.

So, back to the quills and ink.  Like it or not.

He was a man of good, high spirits not often given to fits of melancholia; instead, his bile came forth as bouquets of wit and satire.  Right and wrong, it was beautiful and effective.

The temptation to quit all his creative activities or hide them away never seemed to be part of his life — his “sometimes” came in the form of having to escape the censors and the crown by fleeing to Switzerland.  A dangerous but adventuresome sometimes that at least let him know: “Voltaire, you are one effective son of a bitch.”

I am no Voltaire.  Yes, I become physically ill when wars erupt — I ran a 104 degree fahrenheit fever during the debate over the first Gulf War after protesting it with the Quakers and became so sick I wound up at the hospital.  The whole thing, as a memory, is hallucinatory and terrible: I felt to my depths that this was the beginning of a string of horrors for humanity.  And so it was though I could do nothing about it but lie in a bed of torment for a couple of weeks.

My art turned more political after that and my writing often the same until I became a lone voice crying in the wilderness during George W. Bush’s administration — in a small Appalachian town, I wrote lead-heavy long essays for the county’s only newspaper, the only weapon of protest I had to oppose illegal domestic spying, torture, kidnapping, lying, our soldiers being sent to die for Halliburton, human beings — as vicious as some were — redefined legally to the point they were outside the possibility of due process.

Hatred, in the main, was my repayment.  That and $10.00 a pop for the privilege of penning those 5 and 6 page essays every couple of months.  But all that’s external and insignificant: I had to bear witness to the times and use my small voice to say what someone more important should have been saying from the floor of the Senate.  My own conscience would not let me throw my pens out the window.  Maybe that’s why Voltaire never threw his own.

People think it’s my paranoia acting up like a bout of rheumatism, but I swear to you at the height of my writing, the last two years of nearly six years as a freelancer at that paper, all my mail arrived in the box pre-opened.  Was it angry locals at the post office trying to dig up dirt?  Was it the FBI not even bothering to cover their tracks anymore?  (After all, who was I going to call: The FBI?)  All I know, once I was banned from writing for the paper — yes, that happened — my mail was fine thereafter.

That was one of those “sometimes” I felt so defeated I considered just quitting.  I had no platform to speak to the community; some people who were very friendly  to me when I was infamous quit and wouldn’t even do me the grace of saying “hello” when face-to-face; the invitations to come over and discuss ideas failed to arrive anymore.  In short, I was shut down and shut up.

A friend let me begin putting essays and art on a page in his popular website… but it was mainly an exercise in keeping me busy, not gaining readers.  Too broke to get my own site — like this one — no one knew to read it except by word of mouth.  I couldn’t advertise it in the sole paper in the county: That cost money and I’m unsure the ad would have been accepted.  Decline followed and depression as I am melancholic.

I got letters and e-mails now and again from people who said I spoke for them because they were afraid to say anything, or that something I’d said touched them, or to keep up the fight.  Those were good moments, but I rarely responded; I had no words for praise and barely knew what to do with it.  I’m not used to such.  Abuse, yes — that I can do something with; sincere praise and agreement — that’s shocking and frightening, perversely enough.

Someone standing by me and fighting the fight would have been nice, or at least people writing their own ideas, even more moderate, and picking up where I fell would be good.  I was replaced in the paper by a high school girl who wrote columns about the trials and tribulations of being a teenager.  God bless her for at least putting herself out there and getting something in print and her $10.00 a week.  She made more than I did overall for her efforts and it looked good on the college applications. And the people had their wholesome sweet nothings to not bother their consciences — a must for every editorial page.

But it truly made me wonder why I’d bothered in the first place.

The years passed, I mostly moved on, physically if not entirely in spirit.  Loss of my job with insurance, cut-backs in the number of lectures I had at the local university due to underfunding the state educational budget, loss of my marriage… then, I moved to Texas.  Georgia, except for my son and friends who barely speak to me anymore, has nothing but very bad memories for me.

Here, I got to work trying to make comic books and eventually to lecture again, and I do both and attempt to sell some art.  But now, a few years after all the aforementioned,  I’ve wandered into one of those “sometimes.”  I’ll hit 50 in a couple of weeks and Americans have some sort of psychic time-bomb that goes off each birthday ending with a zero.  But 50 is a half-century and 50 is easily more than half my potential lifetime on planet Earth.  In fact, my life could easily be over with at any minute I have so many chronic illnesses and a major mental illness with an average 30% fatality rate.  Manic depression is a hard thing to live with, especially when the tension and pressure becomes intense and all these thoughts of failure and stupidity come boiling up.

I’m becoming too tired to write anymore and I imagine this is tiresome to read if you’ve made it this far.  50 years.  I did not do much damage or accomplish much, really.  My work is uneven, my art difficult to look at, my underground comix are appreciated by other artists and that’s about it — not nothing, but not the popular audience I was looking to speak to, either.  If I last a little longer, maybe more people will read.  Maybe not.  If I last a little longer, some gang of misfits might decide my art is inspirational or speaks to them — who knows?  If I keep writing, I am at least a writer and spreading ideas… then again, I’m unpaid and have no idea whether actual humans are looking at this and not “robots” and webcrawlers.

And my students: some benefit, some don’t; some resist and just don’t care, say so openly, and act as if, because they are “paying customers,” they have arrived at Burger King College where they can say and do as they please and “have it their way.”  The others — I have no clue.  We rarely do: Teachers do their best to plant seeds that might sprout years down the road in their students’ lives and must be content with that, content with having planted better seeds than worse.

As a philosopher… I don’t know and don’t even wish to hazard a guess.  Philosophy, thank God, has kept me alive and given me guidance through Hell several times.  Including the Hell of “sometimes.”  Maybe I gave a good example if anyone noticed.  You never know.

You never know.

16 January 2016

Richard Van Ingram

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