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The Boss
Over the last 20 years, I have not drawn more than a sketch or two of the Boss. The Boss, you might know, is the main character in my comic strip, Subconscious Comics. For the twenty years prior to that, I had drawn him almost every day. Now that I am once again drawing him regularly, I am enjoying the process of getting re-acquainted.

When you don’t see someone for along time, there is a tendency to stop thinking about them, even if you were once close. It’s the same with a made-up character. As is often the case with real people, if you were close, sometimes the old, easy familiarity can return pretty quickly. That’s the way it’s been with me and the Boss.

I had forgotten how much he reminds me of Daffy Duck. That’s not too surprising, I guess. I never consciously set out to model the Boss after him, but Daffy was always my favorite animated character: zany, melodramatic, cunning, and utterly hapless. And very funny. I see now that I imprinted that same brand of persona on my chimp-in-underpants.

I had been working in earnest on the script for my comic novel — in which he is a key player — for nearly nine months. Curiously, however, I didn’t really begin our re-acquaintance until I started drawing him again. As I wrote his parts in the script, he remained a distant figure in my mind, and only when I drew his facial expressions did he fully come alive. It’s a bit like talking to your old friend on the phone as compared to seeing him or her in person.

As with Daffy, you are forced to forgive a lot if you’re going the like the Boss. He is vain, calculating, and insincere, but oddly innocent. Maybe that’s what makes him charming (at least to me). And even though I know him pretty well, I am seeing him now with fresh eyes.

One thing I’ve noticed: he has not aged. Some comics characters do, of course, like Blondie’s Alexander and Cookie Bumstead, but not the Boss. There is a character in Subconscious Comics who stands in for the older version of the hosting human, but the boss is forever early-middle-aged. It’s hard to know what age Daffy is, but whatever that age is, he is frozen there.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m “friends” with either of these characters. I like them, though, and I’m always glad to see them again. In the case of Daffy, I have to settle for cartoons I’ve seen many times. I don’t count his more recent incarnations because they are not voiced by the departed genius Mel Blanc, whose depictions added so much to the character’s persona.

With the Boss, though, I can cast him in new situations with new possibilities. For me, he’s forever fresh and new… like a real person. He’s just ink on paper, though. I can’t shake his hand, or hang out at the bar with him, or have him over to the house. Come to think of it, I can’t do much of that with my flesh and blood friends, either. Maybe the Boss will have to do until the real thing returns.
Day
Wednesday
No wait
I mean Thursday
Monday? Sunday?
Maybe Saturday?
Doesn’t really
Matter day

Mater dei!
Mayday!
Cinco de
Holiday
Doris Day
Any day
All day!

Now every day
Is everyday
No other day
But today
Even payday
Went away
Day!
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.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon