The Mutiny of Beetle Bailey
US Rep Censored for Saying 'Coup'
August 29, 2004
The Mutiny of Beetle Bailey
|In Mort Walker's famous cartoon strip, Beetle Baily appears to have taken a political position. Credit: Mort Walker / King Features Syndicate|
Gar Smith / The-Edge
It's been no secret that Gary Trudeau and Aaron McGruder are not exactly in George W. Bush's corner, but Dubya knows he's really in trouble when Beetle Bailey enlists in the Dump-Bush Campaign.
McGruder's Boondocks strip was among the first to criticize Mr. Bush on a political and personal level. In one classic Sunday episode, (shortly after Mr. Bush famously cut his head after a fainting spell allegedly suffered while scarfing pretzels and watching TV) the wild-haired Huey Freeman walks out to the lonely windswept cliff where he feels free to speak his deepest thoughts. After a sober pause, Huey clears his throat and yells: "Pretzel, schmetzel! The guy was drunk!"
In another classic strip, printed on April 20, 2002, Huey is sitting in of a TV set and glowering as the speaker drones the following message: "And in other news -- Do not ask questions about the president. Do not ask questions about the war. Do what we say. We are your only defense against the evil people of the world. You are getting veeery sleepy. Buy Nikes...."
Trudeau, of course, has been merciless and unremitting. With the same withering iconographic scorn that turned Vice Presidential lightweight Dan Quayle into a floating feather, Dubya first appeared in the Doonesbury strip as an empty Texas Stetson shadowed by a floating asterisk -- a constant reminder that he was never actually elected president.
After 9/11, when a "new Bush" emerged and began using the terrorist threat to claim unprecedented powers, the floating cowboy hat morphed into a floating Roman general's helmet. Still shadowed by the ever-mocking asterisk.
It was in Doonesbury that a character turned in frustration to America's Sunday comics readers and screamed: "Listen up! There never was any connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks! None!"
It was Doonesbury that brought the Iraq war home by turning one of the leading characters into a war casualty. In a bizarre twist, the same day that BD, Trudeau's perpetually helmeted jock, lost his leg in an Iraq ambush, another comic character also lost a leg in Iraq -- a cousin of Rob Wilco, the lead character in Darby Conley's strip Get Fuzzy .
And, when the rest of the US media was busy touting the dawn of Iraqi "sovereignty," it was Doonesbury, not the New York Times, that informed millions of Americans: "The US is currently building 14 permanent bases in Iraq. Does that sound like we're fixin' to hand over actual power?"
More Cartoonists Join the Anti-Bush Rebellion
|Beetle Bailey: Soldier, Pacifist, Humanitarian! Beetle Bailey scrawled the following statement on a barracks wall in a comic strip that appeared on Sunday, July 18, 2004: "Want a better world? Try this! First, realize that you're not always right. Listen to the other person; discuss your differences. Try to understand each other and come to some agreement so that you can both coexist without harming anyone. Even if you can't agree on everything, tolerance is better than extinction. Humanity, love, peace and cooperation give life meaning and satisfaction. Try it! It works!" Credit: Mort Walker / King Features Syndicate|
Bush-bashing has even reached into the middleclass cartoon living room of Karen Montague-Reyes' Clear Blue Water, whose main characters are a Manny Torres, a mullet-haired proto-Republican and his liberal, wavy-tressed wife, Eve -- a mother-of-three-with-twins-on-the-way.
On August 20, 2004, the following exchange took place:
EVE: This country is being almost exclusively run by rich white men. It's always BEEN run by rich, white men. In 200 years, nothing much has changed.
MANNY: Mmmm. Hmmm.
EVE: I tell you what we need. We need a Black, disabled, Jewish, lesbian to become president with a Hispanic or Asian atheist VP.
MANNY: Now THAT would be an interesting ticket.
EVE: Wouldn't it? It'll never happen.
MANNY: Well, I'd say it has about the same probability of happening as the alcoholic, frat boy son of an incompetent ex-president stealing an election and becoming the leader of the Free World.
EVE: Yeah, Like THAT could ever happen....
But who could have predicted that Beetle Bailey, the perpetually lazy, preferably prone, non-involved, life-long private would ever take a stand on a political issue?
Beetle Bailey, Greg and Mort Walker's legendary strip has long been lambasted by the anti-war camp, which has complained about the strip's lack of realism. Beetle Bailey is, by definition, pro-war" but neither Beetle, Sarge, Zero, Plato or any other members of Beetle's brigade ever go to war. They are never sent overseas to fight and die. Nobody at Camp Swampy ever expires in combat or loses a limb in a military exercise. Even "Killer" never has to worry about being shot down -- unless it's by one of his would-be dates.
The strip's only physical threat comes from Sarge who perpetually beats Beetle into a pile of toothless, broken-limbed rubble (from which Beetle always rises, intact, like Wily Coyote in khaki). Beetle, of course, never files a complaint with his superiors and Sarge never serves time in the brig for abusing his troops.
But in Election Year 2004, that has all changed. Beetle Bailey has become politicized.
Beetle Draws a Bead on Bush
On June 16, 2004, General Halftrack and his aide are mocked for playing "war games," hiding behind their desks like children, brandishing toy pistols and yelling "Bang! Bang!"
On June 26, Sarge tries to entice Beetle into re-enlisting. "Free room and board, free clothes, a chance to learn new skills, free medical and dental care, good physical training... Great reasons to re-enlist. What more can I say?" To which Beetle responds bleakly: "I notice you didn't say one word about being shot at."
But the most incendiary Beetle blast may have been the subtle visual grenade that was lobbed on May 17, 2004. In that day's strip, Sarge bends over a confused-looking Beetle who looks up from his bed and mutters: "I had the weirdest dream last night." In the second of two panels, Sarge replies: "It wasn't a dream" and the panel expands to show Beetle's bed.
A goofy-looking balloon bobs over the headboard, a large stuffed bear is propped against the side, and a note is pinned to a nearby wall with a dagger. Beetle's arm sports a new tattoo, he's wearing stripped prison pants, there's a broken ankle-cuff on one leg and a "Number one" blue ribbon pinned to his shirt. But the most remarkable part of the drawing appears on the far right side and continues "off-panel." Beetle is shown holding a rope tied to what appears to be a donkey. The donkey is wearing a half-visible banner. The banner clearly reads: "Vote for Kerry."
The way things are going, Attorney General John Ashcroft may soon be asking Justice Department attorneys to draw up a legal memo declaring Beetle Bailey an "enemy combatant" and buying Messrs. Walker, McGruder and Trudeau one-way tickets to Guantanamo.
US Rep Censored for Using the Word 'Coup'
|US Congresswoman Corinne Brown|
In mid-July, when Congresswoman Corinne Brown referred to a Republican "coup d'etat" in the 2000 election, she was promptly gaveled out of order and her words were ordered stricken from the Congressional Record.
This authoritarian action brings to mind the following passage from George Orwell's novel, 1984:
"If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say this or that event never happened . . . And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed -- if all records told the same tale -- then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future -- who controls the present controls the past.... In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record."
Congresswoman Brown subsequently issued the following statement:
Statement on the House Floor
Florida Congresswoman Corinne Brown
Striking my words from the House floor is just one more example of the Republican Party's attempt to try and cover up what happened during the 2000 election and of their activities this year in the state of Florida in preparation for stealing this year1s election as well. What is the Republican Party so afraid of? Let me tell you what I'm afraid of: another stolen election and four more years of the Bush administration. When the words of Corrine Brown are stricken from the floor, so is the voice of her 600,000 constituents in Florida's third congressional district.
Let me refresh your memories of what occurred during the 2000 elections, in my district alone (Duval County) there were approximately 27,000 ballots that were spit out by faulty machines. A disproportionately large percentage of these votes came from City Council Districts 7, 8, 9 and 10, primarily African American residential areas. Even more disturbing to me was that the Supervisor of Elections1 office didn1t release these figures to local officials until after the 72 hour deadline had passed. As a result, there were no legal avenues to demand a recount.
Moreover, it often goes unpublished that Florida Governor Jeb Bush spent $4 million of taxpayer money to purge a list of suspected felons from the rolls across the state: but whether or not this list was accurate was of little importance to Governor Bush. Apparently, it was the responsibility of the accused citizen to correct his or her status.
Only later did we learn that the reason many of the people were incorrectly purged (estimates go as high as 50-57,000) was merely because their name was the same as, or similar to, one of the purged felons. For this reason, during the 2000 elections, some of the local election supervisors went so far as to refuse to purge names from the list of their voter rolls because, they argued, 'they did not have faith in how the state compiled its list of disqualified voters.'
Moreover, as part of a grassroots effort to encourage voters, particularly minorities, to get out to the polls, I organize motor voter drives. Yet during the last election, many voters, especially African Americans, were wrongly purged from registration lists, and many who had signed up at state motor voter vehicle offices never had their voter registration fully processed. As a result, these voters were disenfranchised as well. It is for this reason that provisional balloting is so important (wherein if a voter has not re-registered after moving within the same county, he or she may cast a provisional ballot at the polling place of their current residence).
Unfortunately, to this day, the state of Florida STILL does not completely follow through with provisional balloting because, in Florida, if one casts a provisional ballot in a voter precinct which is not their own, their vote will be discarded.
After the stolen elections of 2000, the American public was assured that we would never see a repeat of the 2000 election. But now, the state of Florida has a system in place that records electronic votes without a paper trail (that once again could possibly lead to altering or tampering with the election results), and the Florida Secretary of State's office began yet another questionable purge of felons. And as reported in the press, Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood had to scrap the controversial and error riddled list of 48,000 potential felons from the Central Florida database citing multiple errors. Yet they still have not reinstated the thousands of innocent people knocked off the rolls, and are allowing the local elections supervisors to use 3other methods2 to determine who is qualified to vote.
I saw what happened in my district during the 2000 presidential election, and there remains a dangerous possibility that we may see a repeat of the flagrant violations of civil rights in the upcoming 2004 election. In the last election, there were unquestionable conflicts of interest that adversely affected the election results.
Many of the problems that were caused in the last election were caused by the unfairness of the people that were in charge of ensuring a fair election in the state of Florida. For example, not only did Governor Bush support his brother1s election, but the Secretary of State (the very agent responsible for ensuring a fair election) served as the top campaign official in the state of Florida for the George W. Bush presidential campaign.
What I believe is needed is a neutral party (like the United Nations or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who has incidentally, said they will send preliminary observers in September) to oversee and monitor our elections in an unbiased manner, just as they monitor other elections throughout the world, often at the urging of The United States.
I will continue to do everything within my power to ensure that not one voter is denied the right to vote, and our nation does not witness a repeat of the 2000 elections!
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