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The Jury Is Still Out
There is no doubt that humans have an appetite for cruelty and willful ignorance. It’s never surprising to see, but it’s always disappointing.

For the past three years, that dark aspect of our humanity has been in ascendance. That is something new to my experience. I’m afraid that it is threatening the very existence of our free society. That fear is new for me too. I’m beginning to worry whether humanity might just be a failed experiment in evolution. When I see so many of my fellow humans casting their lot with someone so obviously devoid of simple humanity, it forces me to question the most basic assumptions of my worldview.

And then came last week and the murder of George Floyd. We have often witnessed the lethal, systemic racism that pervades our white-dominant society. That awful inhumanity has persisted for 400 years and for eons before that in our treatment of the other, whoever that might be. It is a reflection of the same darkness we now find at the center of our governance. This time, however, the act was so clear, so unambiguous, that it seems we all had to take notice. The footage does not lie: it was a cold, remorseless murder — by our official representative — of a helpless black man begging for mercy.

Had the story followed the usual track — as it recently has for Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown — then it would have been just one more bit of evidence of the dominance of our darkest impulses. But that has not happened — at least not so far. Instead, good people from small towns and large, red states and blue, in America and around the world, have stepped up to condemn the crime and the underlying sickness in our society that allowed it to happen.

We have heard the claim that “this time it’s different” before, so I am wary. There are still plenty on the right who cannot, will not admit to the racism in our culture. “All lives matter,” they like to say, as if that is a real answer to the charge. Still, we can’t deny that there has been actual change. Minneapolis itself seems set on disbanding its police force. Other jurisdictions have banned the chokehold restraint and opened complaint files of officers to public inspection. Republicans have come out for police reform.

What heartens me most, though, is the demonstrators themselves. They have flooded the streets, risking interaction not only with the police, but with the pandemic. The protests continue even now, two weeks after the killing. There is genuine, across-the-board outrage among my fellow humans against racism and a fierce insistence that black lives do matter. I did not expect this.

That outrage may weaken over time, but for now it is enough to rescue my faith in humanity. Somehow, our better nature has managed to assert itself. That is always surprising to see, and never disappointing.
Home
Okay, this sucks. The pandemic sucks. The inequality sucks. The rise of ugliness and stupidity sucks. Let’s skip over the sad details for the moment, and just admit that we are in a time of multiple crises. And let’s also admit there’s a lot that needs to be done, including in our own hearts, to make things right again.

In the face of all that hard truth, though, I can’t help hoping that some good will come from this trial. We are in a crisis, but aren’t crises supposed to be catalysts for change?

Well, there’s no harm in hoping, anyway. It’s a free country, and surely that includes the freedom to hope. For instance, I hope that all this time we are spending at home will re-awaken the natural centrality of home in our lives. Our families are there, and our gardens and dinner tables and bedrooms. Our lives begin and end there. It is our island of sanity in a crazy world.

The pandemic has forced us into our homes, and I am going to say that that might turn out to be a very good thing. We don’t need it as a place to meditate, or find our nourishment, or be with our loved ones, or recharge our spirits, or focus on creating beauty. There are plenty of other places to do all those things, but home is the only place that you can do all of them. Plus, you don’t have to get in your car and drive to get there.

That’s another thing. The pandemic has curtailed our ability to travel, and the result has been a steep drop in greenhouse emissions. My hope in this regard is that somehow, once the virus is behind us, we can bring our society back in a less toxic form. Perhaps those who are now working productively from home can simply continue to do so. I even dare to hope that the dawning realization that we are all in this together will facilitate an increased focus on the welfare of our planet as a whole. It is our home just as surely as our individual castles are…even more so, I would argue.

And, as long as we’re allowing ourselves to stretch hope to the limit, why not dare to imagine that we can take the cruelty and runaway greed, the irrationality and racial hatred, and cast them out of our home? Not for good, because we are all flawed humans, but as part of a broad enlightenment of our society?

I know. That is a lot to hope for. But if any change is to come out of the multiple crises we are enduring, I say why not make it something good and lasting? Is that too much to hope for? No. If ever there was a time for big hope, this is it.
Going Public
I’ve been keeping a secret for a while now, but I’m about to go public with it. In fact, I’m doing it right here and now with this blog. I’ve talked about it to friends and family, but no one else. Maybe I was just being superstitious…as if just the act of blabbing about it might keep it from happening.

But that’s over. My big secret is… I’m making a book. It will be about 100 pages, hardbound, with a full color bleed on good quality paper. For awhile, I was calling it a graphic novel, but that never sounded right to me. “Book” is what I’m going with, even though it’s really a comic novel. If you wonder what that is, exactly, think of the Scrooge McDuck adventures created by the great Carl Barks. The art and storytelling of those comic books set formidable standards of cartoon excellence … ones that I will be reaching for with my book.

Head First has been sitting on the desktop of my computer for over twenty years, waiting for its moment. The file contained bits of plot summary, dialogue, and a list of conundrums needing to be solved. I would go in every once in awhile and tinker with it, but never really got serious until I stopped producing Deep Cover on a weekly basis. That opened up a hole in my work schedule. I’ve been working on the book ever since, hammering out the script, sketching characters, streamlining the plot.

The original idea for the book dates back to the mid-90s when my partner and I were trying to get Subconscious Comics made into a movie. We actually made some decent progress toward that goal. By the time we finally threw in the towel, we had churned out a treatment and then a script, found an enthusiastic agent, and collected a passel of near misses from studios both big and small. In the end, though, nothing came of it, and the dream went into hibernation.

At the end of my scintillating brush with Hollywood, however, I did come up with an idea for a second script, also with Subconscious Comics at its core. I worked on it for a short while, but since my agent had moved on and I had no place to go with my brainchild, I ran out of gas. My work on it all went into the file on my desktop, and that’s where it stayed until last summer when I opened it up again and got started wrestling with it in earnest.

At this point, I’ve worked through several sets of roughs, and finally, last week, I started inking. There is still a long way to go, but now it’s just a matter of executing. Even my superstition cannot stop me. What’s more, I find that I am truly excited by the prospect of completing the book…excited in a way that is new to me, and that is exciting in itself. But enough said about that. My superstition is starting to tingle again.

If you are a Subcon fan or if you’d just like to peek over my shoulder while I work, I invite you to search for “timeagancartoons” on Instagram and watch as the work unfolds. The inking has been a little slow here at the beginning (and that’s fine), but I’m guessing that the pace will pick up a bit as I go on. It will take at least a year, maybe even two, to finish. At this point, I foresee posting a detail every other day or so until I’m done.

As I envision the project here at the beginning, most of the posts from the book will be in black and white. That is because I intend to do all the inking first, then come back and do the color. As I post details from individual pages, though, I will likely include a few color experiments using old Subcon strips as the source of my line art. With the exception of the cover art for The Collected Subconscious in the 80s, my drawings for Subconscious Comics have never been touched by color.

So now my secret’s out. Hope I didn’t jinx it. When the book is finally in my hand, fresh from the printer and ready to send out into the world, you will be the first to know.
Just a Heads Up
First, an apology: I am really tired of writing about Donald Trump. Also thinking about him, listening to him, watching him, and having him be my President. Last week was an exception because I felt it was important to point out that he is a second degree murderer tens of thousands of times over. Sorry, but that needed to be said. And now, this week, I feel it’s vital to public safety that I speak out again. Therefore, I am sorry once again, but I have to sound the alarm. So…

Just a heads up. Donald Trump is not taking hydroxychloroquine (pronounced hydroxychloroquine — or, if you like, HCQ). He says he is, but that is a lie. Big globs of plaque are accumulating inside his blood vessels from eating all those Big Macs with extra fries. Plus, he’s morbidly obese. The FDA says that people in that condition are in the high-risk group for whom taking HCQ could lead to cardiomyopathy, ventricular tachycardia, and ventricular fibrillation.

Okay, I don’t know what those are either, but I do know something about the other possible side effect mentioned by the FDA: death. Do we really think an all-in narcissist like him (much less an ordinary sane person) would take such a risk? No, but you see, your president wants to prove that Dr. Rick Bright is a stupid-head. Bright is the whistleblower — and our top-line expert on vaccines until he was demoted for refusing to promote HCQ before it was properly tested. And here’s the proof, Trump is saying: I’m in the high-risk group, and I’m taking it. And I’m fine. So this guy’s wrong, and I’m right. So don’t believe anything he says. Believe me.

Except don’t, because Trump is lying, and he’s lying just to score a bogus rhetorical point against someone who had the temerity to disagree with him. The larger question, though, is why he is promoting HCQ in the first place. It is likely to be ineffective and dangerous. What’s the point in flogging it after the FDA has already weighed in?

My answer to that is a bit more theoretical, but hear me out. In addition to being a compulsive liar, Trump is a fantasist. He spins fantasies to gull his audiences and please himself. The liar in him, however, wants to take those fantasies a step further. Trump insists that the stuff he makes up is actually true. He likes the HCQ fantasy because it would lift him out of his current fix by providing a cure for COVID-19. It’s not true, but wouldn’t it be great (for him) if it were?

All he needs is some proof for his claim. His lie about taking it himself might provide a little, but he needs more. He’s not really taking it, as we have said, because that would be foolish and arguably courageous (neither of which he is). But he doesn’t mind if you think he’s taking it…or even if you take it yourself, plaque-lined arteries or not. He’s not the test subject who is voluntarily taking HCQ, but he wants you to be. You know, in case it could actually work. Without killing you…and that’s what he demands to be true.

So just a heads up, because we have to keep reminding ourselves. Trump is lying because that’s what he does. He’ll risk your life to win an argument or to turn his followers into guinea pigs or simply on a whim.

You’ve been warned. Again.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon