While I have had many thoughts about articles and opinions I’ve read in the Courier over the years, and previously chose not to write in response, the opinion cartoon from Wednesday, September 2 calls for a comment.
Satire is a tricky thing. Often the overt message in a piece of satirical writing—or cartooning—is opposite from the underlying message the author is trying to convey. I was offended when I saw Joe Heller’s cartoon showing “all lives matter” because I hope and believe it is the value of most of us who live in Elgin to have a community where everyone feels welcome and safe. And I know that mocking and devaluing the message of Black Lives Matter is not how to achieve a welcoming, safe community.
After an initial appalled reading of Joe Heller’s cartoon, I saw past the racist, patronizing overtone to his underlying point. At least I hope that’s his point, that he hopes we all see how racist it is to equate Black Lives Matter to environmental concerns, applying the idea that “all lives matter” to fishes, forests and even planets. Because while I love and value the whole Earth, Black Lives Matter focuses on valuing humans who as a group are being targeted for oppression; this isn’t “just another liberal complaint.” Did Heller intend irony with only white folks representing the environment while only one black woman represents BLM? I recognize that this reinforces the increasingly false division of values, discounting the many who are striving to show up for each other, particularly Black Lives Matter because it’s about valuing a group of humans being systematically harmed and all too often killed. Did Joe get that? Will readers get that or just laugh at how Black Lives Matter is as ridiculous as any other “save the __” movement? Will folks notice the white man pointing his finger in that “let me tell you” patronizing way, and get the point that if a Black man were to do the same thing, it might be seen as possibly a gun and get shot because he was “certainly threatening”? Will folks see how the guy’s eyes are closed, maybe closed to seeing any other ideas besides his own, self-serving ones? Or the fact that everyone who is standing up for preserving life is wearing a mask while the white guy who knows better spreads his germs as freely as his opinions? It comes down to this for me. I find the values reflected in this cartoon offensive and I deeply hope the rest of the people in our community do too. Because I want to live in a community that values everyone and makes sure we are all welcome and safe, and those who pass through find us a lovely town they want to return to shop, visit or live in.