"Cartoon Protests Turn Deadly."
Go ahead, make up your own visual image to go along with that one. I'll be here when you're ready.
Did yours have Mickey Mouse in it? Mine did. And Popeye. And Droopy Dog. The whole thing was reminiscent of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"
Alas, what's going on these days across the globe is not anywhere near as cute or entertaining. Go looking for the cartoons in question and you might find something like this: "CNN has chosen to not show the cartoons out of respect for Islam." It becomes a little bit like a Thomas Pynchon novel when the images in question aren't available for comment - and the whole problem is that Islamic law forbids the depiction of Mohammad. The fact that the Danish newspaper printed them in the first place remains the source of most of the furor, and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said "Neither the Danish government nor the Danish nation as such can be held responsible for drawings published in a Danish newspaper," after meeting with Muslim envoys in Copenhagen.
Why apologize when you can beat the free speech drum? Afghan police shot dead four people protesting on Tuesday. Iran's best-selling newspaper has launched a competition to find the best cartoon about the Holocaust in retaliation.
Now don't you wish we could go back to Bugs and Daffy waving signs about "Rabbit Season" and "Duck Season?"
Let's wander back a few years to a less tolerant time in our own history here in the United States. We haven't always been so fond of "free speech" ourselves. Way back in 1987, a photograph entitled "Piss Christ" was unveiled. It is a controversial photograph by American photographer Andres Serrano. It depicts a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's urine. Some have suggested that the glass may also contain the artist's blood. The piece was underwritten by the United States National Endowment for the Arts, which offers support and funding for projects that exhibit artistic excellence. The photo has been the object of much debate and outrage. There has been a collage displayed of the Virgin Mary constructed, in part, of elephant dung. In a discussion of the controversy, art historian Michael Davis notes: "Actually, the Virgin is no stranger to artistic controversy. Because we know so little about the historical woman Mary and nothing of her appearance, opponents of religious art in the early Christian church argued that any image of 'Mary' bore no relation to reality, but resembled instead a pagan idol." Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani (who announced that the city would cut its funding to the Brooklyn Art Museum unless the museum canceled the exhibition) said "The idea of having so-called works of art in which people are throwing elephant dung at a picture of the Virgin Mary is sick."
All of this leads me back, inevitably, to a Monty Python skit in which Michelangelo and the Pope are going 'round and 'round about the "first draft of the Last Supper." It ends something like this:
Pope: Look! The last supper is a significant event in the life of our Lord, the penultimate supper was not! Even if they had a conjurer and a mariachi band. Now, a last supper I commissioned from you, and a last supper I want! With twelve disciples and one Christ!
Pope: Yes one! Now will you please tell me what in God's name possessed you to paint this with three Christs in it?
Michelangelo: It works, mate!
Michelangelo: Yeah! It looks great! The fat one balances the two skinny ones.
Pope: There was only one Redeemer!
Michelangelo: Ah, I know that, we all know that, what about a bit of artistic license?
Pope: A one Messiah is what I want!
Michelangelo: I'll tell you what you want, mate! You want a bloody photographer! That's you want. Not a bloody creative artist to crease you up...
Pope: I'll tell you what I want! I want a last supper with one Christ, twelve disciples, no kangaroos, no trampoline acts, by Thursday lunch, or you don't get paid!
Michelangelo: Bloody fascist!
Pope: Look! I'm the bloody pope, I am! May not know much about art, but I know what I like!