Joel Pett, the editorial cartoonist at the Lexington Herald-Leader, chose to celebrate National Adoption Month this week by using the children of Kentucky Gov.-elect Matt Bevin as “mere props” to mock Bevin’s stance on Syrian refugees.
Bevin has said that when he takes office, he will work to keep Syrian refugees out of the Bluegrass State. That stance, one echoed by dozens of governors, didn’t please Pett so he attacked by drawing pictures of Bevin’s Ethiopian children into a cartoon. The strip depicts Bevin hiding under his desk, with an aide holding a family photo and saying: “Sir they’re not terrorists. … They’re your own adopted kids.”
As a journalist and vocal proponent of free speech, I give editorial cartoonists wide latitude for using mockery to make a point. But as an adoptive parent, I can’t let this tasteless jab go without engaging in some free speech of my own: The cartoon is despicable; Pett is obnoxious for drawing it; and the newspaper is tone deaf for publishing it as the country celebrates adoption.
Pett sounds petty when he says Bevin started it by using his children in campaign commercials first. He sounds arrogant when he says he has endured “little controversies” like the outcry over the cartoon for 30 years and scolds Bevin for rising to the bait. And Pett plays the hypocrite when he accuses the critics of Syrian refugee policy of demagoguery even as he engages in it himself.
The Herald-Leader is equally hypocritical for publishing a cartoon that uses a politician’s children as pawns. Journalists rightly raise questions when the children of Democrats are the targets of such attacks. Remember, this time last year an obscure Republican aide was driven from her job on Capitol Hill after mocking Sasha and Malia Obama. But let a Republican win a key race like Bevin did two weeks ago and suddenly his children are no longer off limits.
Bevin missed the mark in his reaction to the cartoon. Without any supporting evidence, he accused Pett of holding to a “deplorably racist ideology” and the newspaper of allowing “overt racism” into its pages. (It’s worth noting that editorial-page editor Vanessa Gallman, who approved the cartoon and said she “did not see in it the issue of race that Bevin has raised,” is black.)
But Pett and the newspaper crossed a line they shouldn’t have. Shame on them.
P.S. I have no reason to believe that Pett actually hates adopted kids, but he’s clearly a big fan of distorting people’s true opinions. I figured he would appreciate the headline.
Full disclosure: Several years ago I interviewed for a job as an editorial columnist at the Herald-Leader. I don’t recall whether I met Pett, but I did interview with Gallman. The paper offered the columnist’s job to one of its editorial writers.
Filed under: Adoption and Government and Media and News & Politics and People
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Accepting or rejecting Syrian refugees is a policy issue, not a spiritual one, and some politicians and religious figures are taking Christians on guilt trips in order to convince them otherwise. This is both discouraging and devious.
The current appeals to Christian conscience as a way to advocate an open-door policy typically go something like this: God demands that His followers show compassion to those who are less fortunate, especially widows and orphans. He also tells us not to worry in general or to fear those who can kill our bodies. This means Christians should support Syrian immigration and reject irrational fears about terrorists who might use immigration policy to sneak into the country.
While the teachings behind that rationale are true, they are not particularly relevant to the ongoing policy debate. Here’s why:
If it is immoral to keep 10,000 Syrians at arm’s length for security reasons, what about the millions of others still stuck in that country? Aren’t we compelled as a “Christian nation” not only to welcome them but to use all of our resources to rescue them? Shouldn’t we have done something long ago, initially to prevent this tragedy and later to put an end to it?
And what about the rest of the world’s refugees? Do Christians sin if they do not advocate opening our borders to all of them immediately? If not, where are we supposed to draw the line, and what factors are righteous to consider when drawing that line? And if it’s OK to draw lines, how can anyone possibly argue that it is sinful to draw them now to ensure the safety of the hundreds of millions of people who already call America home?
The phrase “while we have opportunity” in Gal. 6:10 keeps coming to my mind: “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”
Maybe Syrian refugees are such an opportunity for the United States, and maybe Christians should be the loudest voice for such compassion. But these decisions are not as simple as politicians and religious leaders like to pretend in their spiritually manipulative platitudes.
Filed under: Government and News & Politics and Religion
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I actually gave the question some thought before I changed my picture — a first for me and thus not something I do lightly — and again after he asked the question, so I thought I’d share my explanation here in addition to on his Facebook wall.
For me, a profile picture with the French colors superimposed on it makes a multifaceted statement:
• One of empathy with the people of France. I was in Washington on 9/11, within walking distance of the White House, one of the presumed potential targets of the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. I remember what it was like walking to the Metro at the end of that workday, the capital city all but empty except for military vehicles and armed soldiers. The terror was palpable.
• One of solidarity with the French government. However you decide to pursue and punish ISIS for this evil, I am behind you. (Hours ago, the French bombed some ISIS targets in Syria.)
• One of purpose for our president, lawmakers and military leaders. I want them to stop saying terror is “contained” and start committing the money and people necessary to do it.
• One of importance to my Facebook friends. As I mentioned, the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks on France mark the first time I’ve been motivated to change my Facebook profile picture for a cause. That has been intentional. Many things matter to me. I write about some of them on Facebook and on this blog. This particular historical event matters enough to also merit a simple, symbolic gesture that won’t change anything but will let people know the attacks have changed me.
Filed under: Blogging and Family and Government and Military and News & Politics and Social Media
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For years the speech police have been pressuring Washington’s professional football franchise to change the name of its team from Redskins to something that isn’t “offensive” to American Indians. Team owners past and present have ignored the outcry, but back in June a federal judge voided the Redskins trademark.
That led to an interesting legal brief from the Redskins organization this week as it appeals the ruling. The team challenged the notion that the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board can overturn a brand name because it is “disparaging.”
Rednecks get a shout-out in one section of the brief. It rebuts the claim that the government’s continued allowance of the Redskins mark could be interpreted as an endorsement of the term.
The team’s lawyers make their point by listing several other potentially offensive terms the trademark board has approved. “Redneck Army Apparel” is right there in the middle of them.
That’s the first time I’ve seen anyone as enlightened as a big-city lawyer admit that “redneck” is a disparaging word. Granted, the Redskins legal team is arguing that entrepreneurial Americans should be free to use brand their products with a stamp of redneck approval, but at least there is an implication that “redneck” just might be a slur, depending on the context. That’s progress.
On the other hand, “redneck” may be a moneymaker. I entered the word into the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s search system, and it generated 649 results. “Hillbilly” and other similarly disparaging terms make appearances, too.
The takeaway from this stroll through the bureaucracy: Sometimes it pays to be offensive, whether you own a football team or just have a marketing gimmick geared toward rednecks.
Filed under: Business and Government and Hatin' On Rednecks and News & Politics and Rednecks and Sports
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