Worldwide Cartoonists Take Pleasure in America’s Pain
The easiest way to see what world opinion looks like is to look through the mirror of political cartoons. The devastation of Hurricane Katrina has done nothing to elicit sympathy from the world according to cartoonists around the globe who are finding pleasure in America’s pain.
In Europe, anger at President Bush’s rejection of the Kyoto treaty to stop global warming is the focus of “I told you so” cartoons. The Europeans see global warming as the obvious cause of Hurricane Katrina and seize the opportunity to blame the president for causing the calamity.
German cartoonist Heiko Sakurai depicts President Bush swept up in a tornado along with a sign that reads, “Welcome to New Orleans.” The president says, “Global warming? What a ridiculous idea! But we got very serious information from our intelligence services that there might be a connection to Al Qaeda …”
Swiss cartoonist Patrick Chappatte of the Paris-based International Herald Tribune (owned by the New York Times) draws a scene of flooded New Orleans ruins, with a billboard that quotes the president, “’Climate change remains to be proven’ –George W. Bush.”
Cartoonist Olle Johansson from Sweden shows the president taking his “global warming dog” for a walk; the dog has escaped from his collar and turned into a raging storm outside the frame, as the president says, “The hurricanes just love to play with him.”
New Zealand Herald cartoonist Rod Emmerson shows President Bush addressing the nation, “The American people can rest assured that we plan to invade New Orleans as soon as possible.”
Bill Leak of The Australian newspaper in Sydney shows President Bush dressed as a cowboy, holding out a tin cup begging for help as Australian President John Howard looks the other way, telling an aide to tell Bush that he gave “at the office.”
Cartoonists in developing countries, the Middle East and Latin America display their disgust for America and President Bush at every opportunity. Americans are portrayed as greedy, obese, stupid and arrogant. Hamburgers are a worldwide symbol for America and we often see ugly depictions of hamburgers; it seems strange to us, but defiled burgers are instantly recognizable around the world as insults directed against America. In Middle Eastern countries where there is no Christian lore that would give rise to a devil character, Dracula is substituted for Satan, and President Bush or Uncle Sam are often depicted as vampires.
Another common symbol for America is the comic book superhero, sometimes Batman or Spiderman, but usually Superman is the worldwide substitute for Uncle Sam, and in most cartoons Superman suffers an indignity that brings joy to an America hating audience. In his most recent cartoon, Emad Hajjaj of the Al-Ghad newspaper in Amman, Jordan draws President Bush in his Superman suit, with Hurricane Katrina as his up-blown skirt, exposing his skinny, naked, black legs trudging through the mud, labeled, “Third World.”
Many of the world’s cartoonists work in countries that allow no press freedom, but the cartoonists describe themselves as being “free.” A Cuban cartoonist once told me, “I’m free to draw whatever I want … as long as it is about the United States.”
Bashing America is a daily job for the world’s cartoonists, and it will take a lot more than death, devastation and widespread human suffering to jar them from their routine.
Daryl Cagle is the political cartoonist for MSNBC.com. He is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to over eight hundred newspapers, including the paper you are reading. His book, “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2005 Edition,” is available in bookstores now.