Tuesday, October 21, 2014


I have two books of political cartoons by Ron Cobb published in 1970 that I probably bought within a couple of years of publication (my copies were 2nd printings in 1971).  Raw Sewage is about the environment (remember, the first Earth Day was in 1970). My Fellow Americans is about politics in this country at the time.  I took these books off the shelf a few days ago and paged through Ron's cartoons, truly a trip down memory lane. I expected to laugh again, the way I did 40 some years ago. I was dismayed, however, that it seems things have not changed very much in the past 44 years. And I didn't laugh this time around.

Below are a few of my favorites from these cartoon books, with some commentary.

from Raw Sewage
This was always one of my favorite ecology cartoons by Ron. The grin on the old man's face is perfect. I have to say that in many cities, such as Portland, OR, there has been a push to incorporate plants into the urban landscape. So perhaps there has been progress on this item over the past 44 years. 

from Raw Sewage
Does anything ring a bell here? I think more people know the word "ecology" now than in 1970. We also are very familiar with the term "climate change" because it is in the news media so much. But we are experiencing more severe storms and other major changes in climate patterns than we did then. Katrina and Sandy were not beautiful women but horrific storms that destroyed and killed. Where are the changes needed to slow down this human-induced process? So far, it looks like we will all be sitting on the roof of the car wondering why these things are happening. 

from My Fellow Americans
How true, and how sad. The Civil Rights Movement - the one fought for racial equality - forced numerous positive changes in our society. And yet, 44 years after this cartoon was inked, it seems that beatings and killings (and incarceration) of young men of color by police is more normal than ever. The numbers are chilling; the stories are mind-numbing. How is it that here, in America, racism has become more institutionalized than it was 44 years ago? Didn't we fix this already? Sadly, we didn't. 

from My Fellow Americans
How did Ron know? Thanks to Edgar Snowden and others, we now know so much more about the surveillance state in which we live. How many of us knew what NSA meant just a couple of years ago? We now have surveillance cameras proliferating everywhere, police departments have weapons and vehicles designed for the military (thanks to grants and gifts by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security). What Ron didn't know then was that we would all have smart phones that know where we are all the time, as well as Google, Facebook, email, Twitter and millions of other internet data collectors that the government can hack into (or simply demand from the providers). 

from My Fellow Americans
Do I even need to comment on this one? The most reliable numbers are that more than 30,000 Americans are killed by guns every year! This insanity is perpetuated by organizations like the National Rifle Association that have a strange stranglehold on our elected legislators. This is nuts! 

And so, sadly, I must conclude that many important issues in our society have not improved since 44 years ago. I continually ask myself what went wrong, why we haven't collectively improved these egregious facets of human community. Is this really the world we want to inhabit, and leave for our children? 

And I'm still not laughing. 

My Fellow Americans 1970. Ron Cobb. Price/Stern/Sloan Publishers, Inc. - Sawyer Press
Raw Sewage  1970. Ron Cobb. Price/Stern/Sloan Publishers, Inc. - Sawyer Press 

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