Friday, March 9, 2018


A quick illustration inspired by Emma Gonzalez of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for International Women's Day.

The Parkland students have been a huge inspiration. It really feels like this is a moment of legitimate change. I've felt for a while that it kind of comes down to having to wait for corrupt, evil people in power inexorably to die out--the momentum as it exists is that they will simply go extinct while more rational people gradually grow to outnumber them as a matter of course, I have no doubt over the long term, that's how it'll go eventually. But the Parklanders represent the other, more active side of the equation: newer generations are not only going to displace the bastions of evil over time, but they now will actively vie to dethrone and defang these sinister elements, accelerating their extinction. What I love about Japan is that you can walk to 7-11 at 4am and not give it a second thought aside from wondering if it's cold enough to bring a hat. That should be what it's like in the US. That is freedom. But we can't get there as long as merchants of death call the tune. Fortunately, the chorus of kids from Parkland sound like the slapper we've been waiting for.

In all seriousness, this moment feels different because it appears to be the point of a perfect confluence of crucial factors that seem poised to manifest in actual change, but that have never all concurrently been present before--I think of this as a Malcolm Gladwell-style Outliers moment, that just by chance, these factors at the right time and place will yield results. There are at least five factors I feel that are contributing to this unabashedly optimistic outlook from this ordinarily cautiously pessimistic optimist.

First, never before have the victims of the tragedy been on the cusp of--or have just freshly attained--the right to vote. Further, as exemplified by Emma Gonzalez's famous speech, this generation has grown up seeing the blatant nonsense (and dangerous cost) of today's horrific state of dialogue and are prepared to call it out in frank terms because they risk death not to. But it's not simply that they can speak out in their immediate community. For the first time, we have a group of victims who themselves --not parents, relatives, or even themselves years later after the immediacy of their tragedy has faded from the public memory)--they themselves are fully capable of reaching out to people at large across the country and even around the world, for that matter, via their fluent ability to take their fight online.

Second, the party in power has blatantly been outed incontrovertibly as various flavors of cartoonishly unacceptable. We have seen they are hypocritical: the party of "moral values" has backed and defended adulterers, spousal abusers, child abusers, etc. They have similarly demonstrated refusal to act in good faith: see (R-KY) Senator Mitch McConnell indignantly acting as if he was observing regular order on his "healthcare" and tax scam bills, when in objective reality he was satisfying the exact accusations he levied against the plain period of study, debate, and compromise provided in preparing Obamacare. Along these lines, we've seen other acts in bald-faced bad faith, such as silencing legitimate questioning during various hearings (see the multiple, outrageous shooshes to D-CA Senator Kamala Harris, for instance), and the absolutely disgraceful runaround R-CA Representative Devin Nunes has engaged in out of ostensible "concern" for truth. These are just a few outrages in this vein of dis-ingenuousness rotting the party.

Similarly (because hypocrisy seems to be the underlying factor in all of this) the oath-defying party has also proven itself to be plainly, dangerously beholden to entities other than the country and the Constitution, and are thus incapable of genuine leadership: they decried deficits while a black guy was in office but then gleefully plunged the government even deeper into debt for the appeasement of their donors: see public comments, such as "adult in the room" (R-SC) Senator Lindsey Graham's admonition that "financial contributions will stop" if they don't pass their tax scam, or R-NY Chris Collins relaying a donor's instructions that they pass the bill or "don't ever call me again."

And most abhorrently, the party has demonstrated an inability to insist on fair play in order to win elections solely on the strength of their ideas: see them going so far as to endeavor to impeach supreme court judges in Pennsylvania for ruling to void severely gerrymandered Republican-favoring districts. Perhaps more grotesquely, see also the party's insistence on disenfranchising people on a massive scale, particular minorities because they know they can't win if everything's fair and square and people just get to vote. I've written about this before, but denying the vote and claiming you're representing the will of the people is like stacking your opponent's deck in Magic so they get mana screwed, and then you start acting like you're Jon Finkel. I'm not even discussing their constant covering for that orange fraud's clear negligence (at the minimum) during his campaign, which will all come out eventually, I'm positive.

For these reasons and (much) more, this party feels like it's only sustained itself on "angle shooting" and "running the cheats," as we say in Magic. I recall in the Hillary Clinton interview on Pod Save America, she vocalized what I had suspected for a while ever since I've been paying closer attention to politics: there's a good chance that the Republican party might have died out by now if it hadn't been able to prolong itself with all the above techniques and more, since it seems there really is no substantial need for what they profess, and no general beneficiaries of their self-destructive policies. I've always loved history, just not necessarily politics, but believe it or not, it hasn't always been D vs. R (in fact, one of our earliest parties was called the "Democratic-Republicans!")...parties indeed emerge, grow, and die throughout our history, it's not radical or unprecedented--as national moods shift, parties come and go. Presently, it feels like for the most part, one party is generally (obviously not everyone) trying to do what it can to help the country improve itself while the other is primarily just out to hurt people and benefit itself, perhaps in that order, but who even really knows? It should be that the parties have different methods of the same end goal: improving the country. But one party is just checked-out and even worse, is actively bringing harm to us. That party should be shunned and let to die out so we can have a new party that will at the bare minimum be interested in national improvement and capable of checking the other party in good faith. My frustrations with that party is what I gather is also taking hold nationally, when people see what they are doing so brazenly and publicly and can no longer justify their (in)actions.

The third factor as to why now is different is related to the second one: because the party in power has submitted so consistently and helplessly to a dangerous lobbying group, we've seen these tragedies at a disgusting regularity and at a soul-crushing reach. After seeing all venues from every level of sacredness from outdoor concert venues to within church walls, and victims from all walks of life, including a baseball field of Republican congresspeople, and of course children who were just barely learning how to write the alphabet, there is a feeling that the need for gun reform is simply no longer by any strain of logic able to be hand-waved or shrugged away.

Fourth, and perhaps the most all-encompassing factor as to why now is different: we are in a climate of finally pushing back in general at the systemic abuses that hoarders of power have been subjecting us to. The Women's March was an inspirational, massive declaration that this disgraceful state of oppression and inequality was not a figment of anyone's imagination, or even just a small hiccough in an otherwise humming machine. The MeToo movement has been bringing justice to people abusing positions of power in professional settings. The overall recoil from the outrage and dishonor of that orange fraud taking the White House and populating it not merely with inept people, but people antithetical to their posts in so brashly public a display has made more people than ever (such as myself) cease apathy and derive direct concern with what's going on. Regardless of what particular interest people may have (interest in women's rights, healthcare, minority rights, science protection and advancement, maintenance of global power, preservation of history and prestige, the administration of justice), in general, we all have one or more stakes in paying attention and doing what we can to try to right this storied ship in stormy seas. More engagement means this disgusting blemish in our history has more people alert and questing for reform, none more obvious and popular than gun reform.

Fifth, this is all culminating right around a midterm election year while a severely unpopular party and historically loathed head reign either incompetently, dangerously, or both, and in any case, disingenuously. People were growing fed up and looking forward to midterms enough as it was, but then this happened and it feels like it's the final straw just as we enter the midterm year itself.

The momentum for gun reform has been building for years, and now given an articulate population that can vote almost immediately following their personal tragedy and who can meanwhile also reach out on a massive scale to a network of similarly interested forerunners and recently activated once-apathetics, and given a clear opponent in a dangerous and inept ruling party, and a widespread climate of yearning for positive change just as we turn the corner into midterms, this time it indeed feels different. This time it feels like these young voters will get it done. Perhaps not immediately, but in their lifetimes for sure, and perhaps even by the time they graduate college we'll be living in a comparatively different world. I can feel it. It feels so obvious. And I certainly hope some of their number chooses to move into law or politics so we can get people genuinely interested in public good in positions of power. We need it; we need them. They can do it; we can do it. We must do it.

But, you know, to be totally frank, these students also kinda bum me out! I remember growing up watching Gundam Wing in particular, and specifically thinking (as a child, no less), Wow, when I'm a teenager, I'll never change the world like they are. I'll never do great, consequential things like that. The students bring me right back to that deflating insecurity, though now I'm on the other side. I see them giving speeches and advocating for something greater than themselves, and I feel as useless as I did as a kid watching Duo Maxwell throw it down on TV. Like I missed my chance to contribute. That's what eats at me about art. There's only so much I can do to help the world. I'm not a doctor or politician, or even a teacher. How's that Yale degree treating you?

I guess we should talk a bit more about the art itself, since this is an art site after all. I did some early portrait studies during some practice recently, so I'll just include some of those in this post (it's just practice in inks, no pencils, so we let the jank flow). But about today's main illustration, it uses the female symbol in the background, but it is also presented vaguely to resemble an Ankh, the symbol of life. I see the new generation (and females in general) as the hope for life in an abstract sense after seeing the destructive nature of older generations and male-dominated leadership. In having the symbol circle the head, there's of course the connotation of a halo from classical art, too, but it also subverts the symbology of a chalk outline of a victim who fell for the ascension of a victim who survived. All positive things. The pose is reminiscent of that classic painting of JFK, though rather than a male President who fell to a gun, we're witnessing a new generation of leaders rising to challenge guns.

Not normal,


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