Here & There

In response to the previous posting, a witty correspondent writes me this:

Catholics should be quite at home in a Trump administration. We’ve been living under the same style of communication during this entire pontificate — absurd unscripted remark, inevitable walk back by the press office hacks, and a contradiction by the public figure the following week.

Not to mention antagonism toward one’s opponents. Though Francis’ hostility to traditionalists in his own Church is nothing compared to the frenzy of vindictiveness toward Ted Cruz that is still driving Trump, even now after winning his party’s nomination.




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Those of you who emailed to scold me for “endorsing” Trump: Hold on a moment, please. Was Odysseus endorsing Scylla when he decided to hold course closer to the monster’s lair than to the whirlpool of Charybdis? You know the answer: Certainly not. There was no escaping one or the other. Circumstance forced Odysseus to choose. It was a calculated risk. There would be losses either way.

And there were. Nevertheless, Odysseus made it home. Eventually.

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Trump’s mortician’s tan is a source of much raillery. Who was it who mocked our habit of hyphenating ethnicities by calling him an Orange-American? Color is my forte. So I got to thinking: What color best befits the Chappaqua harridan? Orange, you think, as in orange jumpsuit? Yes, that too. But there are alternatives.



What color are fleurs du mal? The greenish-black of necrosis? Or that yellowish-green of slime and spoilage? Picture the poisonous blooms in Rappaccini’s garden. Iridescent, perhaps—the prism hues of decomposition. Putrescence. And if we ponder the reeking debacle of Benghazi, one color commands the rest: blood red.


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A reader emailed me this certificate. It came with a note saying, “Probably a forgery.” But it is hard to tell in a jpg. I’d have to see the original to get a firmer handle on authenticity. You can judge for yourself.

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I am a great fan of political cartoons. That succinct, direct marriage of artistry and analysis deserves respect. They are inherently biased. Condensing complexities to a single point, they are hardly forums for argument. They are thoroughly, delightedly one-sided. They know which side they are on and relish it. It is a high pleasure to see one’s own side encapsulated pithily and with humor.

Truth to tell, if the drawing is particular fine, I even enjoy the other side’s cartoons. Drawing is key. That is why we send letters to the editor and not cartoons. The letter is easier.

Ralph Steadman. Richard M. Nixon (1974).

Victor Navasky, long-time editor of The Nation and now retired as publisher, wrote The Art of Controversy: Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power (2013). It is an apt title for a lively book from the man who commanded what Calvin Trillin of The New Yorker once affectionately called “a pinko magazine printed on very cheap paper.”

Navasky quotes Boss Tweed, whose corruptions were ferociously attacked by Thomas Nast’s cartoons in the 1870s: “I don’t give a damn what they write about me. My constituents can’t read. But get rid of those damned pictures. They can all see the damned pictures.”



Nast drew blood. Every good cartoonist does. That is why they continue to thrive. The written word is expected to be judicious, temperate to a certain undefined but very real degree. It is supposed to keep its cool, watch its manners, avoid rude gestures toward the Great and the Good. A drawing knows no such rules. It does not have to keep its elbows off the table. It simply gets to the heart of things with a vivid immediacy that bypasses reasoned explanation in favor of a graphic flash of intuition. Really, not simple at all.