It’s no joke

Before there were memes and countless digital reflections, political cartoons were offered up as illustrations of life.

One of my favourite cartoons in recent times was by Nova Scotia editorial cartoonist Bruce MacKinnon, of the Halifax Chronicle Herald. The event that inspired his work was the shooting and killing of Corporal Nathan Cirillo as he stood guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during the attacks on Parliament Hill in October of 2014. In MacKinnon’s illustration, one of the bronze soldiers at the National War Memorial steps off the memorial to kneel and help a fallen comrade, while the others lean over in support. It still gives me the chills.

A good cartoonist adds much to a quality editorial page. Earlier this year we were lucky to strike a deal with Steve Nease, who is well known in community newspaper circles for his award-winning work. Sometimes his topics are a humorous reflection on current events and other times he speaks to more serious issues unfolding before Canadians.

Provocative cartoons are meant to start a discussion. Such was the case last week with U.S. President Donald Trump kneeling on the neck of Lady Liberty. It tied a few current events together – the killing of George Floyd by an officer brutally restraining him and the reaction of Trump to the rights of people to protest, amongst other things.

The seriousness of the topic rubbed a handful of readers the wrong way. One Trump defender (this week was not his first time complaining) felt it was a horrible representation of the president, who is doing a great job. Two more were offended at the seeming violence of the topic. Another figured a local newspaper had no business meddling in international affairs.

The cartoon, it appears, did its job. People are talking and a conversation is ensuing. Our editor’s choice to run that material was solid and one I support.

If this pandemic has taught us anything in recent weeks, it is that this big old world is one small place.

The interconnectedness of trade, travel and entire economies helped move a virus from one shore to another. The world is now one, so what happens anywhere is of interest and affects the lives of everyday Canadians.

For over two weeks, the aftermath of Floyd’s death has captivated headlines, supplanted COVID-19 as a top story and revived the Black Lives Matter movement. Around the globe, in city after city far from Chicago Street in Minneapolis, protestors have held rallies. The initial events drew rioting but latterly marches have been more purposeful and peaceful. This is not to say things won’t flare up again, but it isn’t an issue to ignore.

While we all have perceptions of democracy and what it means to us individually, the ability to speak and have differing views is something this newspaper will support until the end. It might explain why we have one of the best local editorial pages around. People can be heard and their views can be read.

Although we have abiding respect for the democratic process and the right of victors to lead, no newspaper person worth their salt can support times when military scale operations are rallied to quell protests. Even past generals have railed against the use of force against American citizens in recent days. It is impossible to explain away the detainment of reporters covering protests, nor the trampling of rights.

The use of Twitter to engage in diplomacy breaks with long established tradition and protocol wherein public policy is a debated item, vetted by politicians and bureaucrats to ensure it is representative of reality and not just a flippant late night musing.

For those content to ignore and hope these controversies magically go away, there may well be a surprise at some point as to what has been lost never to return.

Continuously challenging citizens to think about equality within their democracy is a necessity and a point we take seriously.