The cartoon above was in the N.Y. Post yesterday (18 February 2009). Some are saying that it compares President Obama to a deranged chimp, and that making such a comparison is racist.
"How could the Post let this cartoon pass as satire?" said Barbara Ciara, president of the National Association of Black Journalists. "To compare the nation's first African-American commander in chief to a dead chimpanzee is nothing short of racist drivel."First of all, President Obama did not write the stimulus package legislation. While the executive can make suggestions as to what legislation should be created by the legislature, the legislature is the organization that must write any legislation. The executive then chooses whether or not to sign legislation into law, and executes or enforces the enacted legislation. The legislature creates legislation, while the executive executes the laws; notice the etymology?
The Rev. Al Sharpton called the cartoon "troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys."
When the artist has the cartoon cop say that "they'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," he must be referring to the legislature, since it is the responsibility of the legislature to write bills. It is entirely conceivable that many people will view the dead chimp in the cartoon as representative of the U.S. government as a whole, and possibly President Obama because our president is the figure-head for our federal government. The words used in the cartoon, however, clearly indicate that it is comparing those who wrote the stimulus bill to an out-of-control chimpanzee who needed to be put down. Al Sharpton and Barbara Ciara can try to spin this differently, but the words in the cartoon clearly point to the writers of the stimulus bill. Those who wrote the stimulus bill were the members of the legislature, not the president, and as President Obama told us one year ago, words matter.
Second, let's consider why the chimp was used. One reason is because a chimp or a monkey is commonly used as a metaphor for people or institutions that are clumsy, unrefined, or smelly; that create items of poor quality; or that achieve something regardless of their ineptness. Another reason for using the chimp is because a recent news item was about a pet chimpanzee who was shot by police after it attacked and seriously injured a woman. The cartoon took a current event, and spun the ineptitude of Congress' stimulus bill around it.
Third, even if the cartoon was comparing Obama to a chimp, that is in keeping with the precedence that was set over the last eight years. President Bush was repeatedly referred to as chimp throughout his presidency. Some compared Bush to a chimpanzee because of the colloquial metaphor, and others did so because they felt that the former president's physical visage resembled a chimp.
Look at the following montage.
The problem here is that the real purpose of those who are crying foul is not to decry racism. Rather, those who are claiming offense seem to be attacking the messenger instead of the message. The message is about a horrible stimulus package that could be dangerous to the financial safety of many Americans. Instead of defending the merits of the stimulus package, these detractors make a claim of racism in an attempt to squelch debate and change the subject.
Well, I'm not having any part of it. Many Americans would agree that Congress could easily be compared to out-of-control chimps at times, and the country is becoming more-and-more skeptical of the stimulus bill that Congress wrote. That cartoon is protected political speech, and it makes a provocative comparison by using two recent national news stories. It is not racist, and it is not out-of-line.
Sharpton, Ciara, and the others like them seem to find racism in everything they see. And in this situation, it seems that they are using a false claim of racism to stifle any criticism or debate. Much like a candidate said back in September of 2008, "They'd much rather have the story ... about phony and foolish diversions than about the future."
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