Patrick Coffin, an insightful and witty broadcaster skilled in interviewing and conversation, is starting his own series of video commentaries about our culture and today’s challenges to faith and reason. I just viewed the first entry in his YouTube series, and he went to the heart (?) of the second TV debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It reminded him of Walt Disney, whose imagination once reigned over families’ Sunday night television viewing. Coffin, a champion for Catholic information and formation in the spirit of the New Evangelization, mused that Disney would be rolling over in his grave upon hearing the coarseness, contentiousness, and cruelty dragging down this presidential campaign season.
Whom do we have to blame for this decay in our dialogues of supposed solidarity? Part of the criticism must go to the American people in general, Coffin said. Exhibit A: So many social media participants, including Christians, make a habit of posting hostile, malignant comments with no moral scruples about these toxins enabling today’s political climate change.
I’m reminded of the gripping revelation from the Pogo comic strip: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” I’m also reminded of the song–“Let There Be Peace on Earth”–which I used to play on my accordion at gatherings in the 1960s and 1970s, to the delight of older adults (often my relatives). They sang sentimentally, but they recognized the power in the closing lines about our personal call to rise above destructive tendencies. They had seen those tendencies earlier in their lives, when hell had broken loose and peace was precious.
Our responsibility to help heal the brokenness we see in the headlines of 2016 also makes me think of my favorite editorial cartoon, something timeless from decades ago. It spoke to me then, so I clipped it from the newspaper I was reading one day. It’s the cartoon reproduced here, with Baloo’s kind permission. Today’s headlines can truly remind us of timeless truths.
St. Francis would conclude, from lessons he learned personally, that such times impel us to repent and rebuild. A well-deserved humility about our own failings can rekindle kindness and can unfreeze hardened hearts over time. With rebuilding and kindness in mind, I want to thank Rex May, who has created brilliant editorial cartoons and other images for decades under his pen name of “Baloo.” He has given his permission to use this image recreated from years ago–my favorite among his cartoons.
I think Patrick Coffin would agree we need all these reminders of the grass-roots responsibilities we share as citizens in this democracy and as members of the Body of Christ. Armed with imagination, boldness, a good memory, and a chastened conscience, perhaps we can share the news that Rex May’s cartoon character is sharing. It’s the good news that we’re all in this together–far from powerless to generate better alternatives for our country’s future.