being good to each other is so important

This comic came across my transom a few minutes ago. Click and read—there’s much more than just the single panel below. I’ll wait.

naterade

On the one hand, beautiful and indisputable. The power of kindness and understanding is formidable. These are values we try to teach our kids, and for the best of reasons, the repulsion of alien despots perhaps not least among them. And I love the art.

On the other… well, it was posted today, today being August 28, 2014. The referents in current events are clear enough, but in case you’re coming to this a few months or years late, let’s state them: the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the subsequent overreaction by police to local protests; the recent bloodshed between Israel and Hamas; possibly the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Or, not quite. The referents in current events are the popular reactions to these events. Winehart (Swinehart? I’m assuming he’s “Nate S. Winehart”) is talking about the conversations he’s seeing his friends having. The parallel timelines in the comic aren’t about different things happening in Ferguson, they’re about different ways to react to a world where Michael Brown is dead.

And—it’s difficult to interrogate these sorts of sentiments without seeming to prove their point, but one of those reactions is much easier to imagine when the discussants are both white hipsters who like the same coffeeshop. Who’d want to spend the day together cloud-watching, sharing a movie and a sunset. Who are friends already, whose lives are only separated by different viewing angles on the same abstraction.

It becomes harder to imagine the pink timeline when the two friends have a complicated history. When they’ve hurt each other more than once, then tried to reconcile, then hurt each other again. When one has more often, and more grievously, taken the offensive. It becomes harder to appreciate the pink timeline in light of Ferguson when the joke, the sugar for the pill, is slavery.

I’m grateful for the comic. I’m glad Winehart (please tell me it’s Winehart) drew and posted it. I’m following his blog now because his art is amazing. But—look, I’m reading this book called OVERWHELMED, by Brigid Schulte, which has nothing to do with the ideas at hand except for this:

The overwhelm, they want people to understand, is not an epidemic of personal failures, of whiny moms unable to juggle work and home efficiently. It’s a massive structural failure, and it’s holding everybody back.

The persistence of the blue timeline is not an epidemic of personal failures, of peevish people unwilling to find empathy and common ground with others.

Except when it is. And sometimes it is. But not always, not even close.

Being good to each other is so important. No question. But part of being good is not always insisting on goodness from the other party. Part of being good is respecting justified anger. Part of being good is owning up to history.

Henson on genre, part deux

On The Muppet Show, the young and annoyingly earnest Scooter gets to have his way—because his uncle owns the theater. Kermit, in order to put on his show, must keep him happy. Scooter suggests a number with a dancing poodle.

Kermit says, “It sounds, said the frog, displaying his artistic judgment, sappy.”

Scooter mentions his uncle.

Kermit adapts: “It sounds, said the frog, displaying his will to survive, wonderful.”

Ibid. (I’ve just discovered the “your Kindle highlights” page on Amazon — can you tell?)

Jim Henson talks about genre without talking about genre

[Henson:] I didn’t call him a frog.

[Interviewer:] Right, he was just Kermit the thing.

[Henson:] Yeah, all the characters in those days were abstract because that was part of the principle I was working under.… I still like very much the abstract characters and some of those abstract characters I still feel are slightly more pure. If you take a character and you call him a frog, or like Rowlf, our dog, call him a dog, you immediately give the audience a handle. You’re assisting the audience to understand; you’re giving them a bridge or an access. And if you don’t give them that, if you keep it more abstract, it’s almost more pure. It’s a cooler thing. It’s a difference of a sort of warmth and cool.… [I]n terms of going commercial and going broad audience, you want to reach the audience as much as possible, and you need those bridges.

Quoted in MAKE ART MAKE MONEY, Elizabeth Hyde Stevens