Cartoonist Ted Rall on The Occupy Movement's Flawed Model, Upcoming Elections, and His Latest Work, "The Book of Obama"
Welcome back to Explicitly Graphic, a monthly by Cynthia Clark Harvey (who's working on a graphic novel of her own). From time to time, Harvey will review graphic novels, talk to artists, and dive into the scene of all things explicitly graphic. Today, she sits down with journalist and cartoonist Ted Rall.
What do Tunisians have that we ain't got? They got a revolution, for one thing. They were spurred to overthrow their rulers when their country had lower unemployment and less income disparity than ours.
Ted Rall, who will appear at Changing Hands on Saturday, August 25, says it's inevitable that revolution is coming to this country. He doesn't speculate whether it will come after the next election cycle (more likely with Romney/Ryan win) or the next, or twenty or a hundred years from now, but it is coming.
When a US revolution comes, if he's still on the planet, Rall says he will be there, doing what he can to disturb the peace.
A few months ago, I knew Rall only as "America's bad boy cartoonist," whose home paper is the LA Times. But Rall is an award-winning journalist and war correspondent, graphic novelist, a Pulitzer finalist, and a genuine leftie -- not an establishment liberal who votes Democrat.
His new book, The Book of Obama, certainly disturbed whatever peace I had.
In The Book of O(bama): From hope and change to the age of revolt, Rall lays out his case, and it's a strong one, for why we should revolt instead of vote, how the only hope we have for real change in this country is to trash the broken Democratic-Republican duopoly and create something new that better serves a diverse nation.
I spoke to Rall recently by phone about the new book, the upcoming election cycle, Barry Goldwater and the recent wave of protests here and abroad.
Now that I know you as a writer and a cartoonist, which do you find more satisfying? In cartooning, I always had ability for that. When I see the blank piece of paper, I see endless possibilities and it just comes easier. With writing, it took years and years of writing before I felt as though I was a pretty good writer. But with the writing, there's more power to change things. So they're just different, and I can't really call one more satisfying than the other.
I have to confess that deep down inside, I knew many of the things you wrote in The Book of Obama, but hadn't wanted to admit it. Why do you think folks who voted for Obama have such a hard time accepting that he is not what they voted for? A lot of people thought he could be so much better than he is. And we probably would have done better with any other prominent Black politician, an Alan West or an Al Sharpton. But people have a really hard time acknowledging what Obama is. I was a dinner the other night and a woman asked me, What could I say to you that would persuade you that Obama should be re-elected? I said, Nothing! He's a murderer; he's using drones to kill innocent people every day! She said, Well, I'm against that policy but. . . And I say, This isn't about policy. The man is a murderer. It's like with LBJ, he did some good things, but he was a killer and the voters recognized him for what he was. They didn't go out of their way to apologize for him.
I know more than a few people in Phoenix who lost their homes during the mortgage crisis. In the book you write about trying to get a mortgage modification with the "Making Home Affordable" program and flatly declare MHA a "scam." What was that experience like? I knew it wasn't going to work, even though I had lost half of my income just before applying. But the only way to really understand it was to work through all the paperwork and then see it for what it was. MHA exists solely as political cover for the banks.
In the book you say that in this country, the so-called political "center" has moved so far right that Barry Goldwater couldn't win a Democratic primary as a moderate. Is this because of political or social conservatism? Social.
I always find it fascinating that some people who say they want the government out of their lives are perfectly happy to move the government in other people's bedrooms. I don't think most of the people who say that really have the government in their lives all that much. Onerous paperwork for small businesses is a real issue, but most people don't own small businesses. The most government the majority of people have in their lives is doing their taxes and that takes about fifteen minutes. I think most people would like more government in their lives, like actually addressing the economy and the mortgage crisis and all the other problems we've got. You know they look over and see the government in poor people's lives and what they'd like is some of that government in their lives.
Where do you think the Occupy movement is today? Well, obviously it's in disarray. I'm active in my local Occupy group, but overall it's a flawed model. The non-violent occupation of public space -- you sit there, then the police eventually come and you don't resist and they move you out. That's it, event is over. And the non-hierarchical nature of the movement, the insistence on 100 percent consensus for every decision, nothing gets planned, nothing gets decided. Now in Quebec, with the student protests, they have a very hierarchical organization and they plan everything in years in advance. That's how they got half a million people in the streets a few months ago.
What do you think will get the millions in the street in the US? If Roe v. Wade gets overturned, then you'll see people in the streets. Some really huge losses will bring real protests.
Ted Rall will be presenting his newest work, The Book of Obama, which includes 68 cartoons, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 25, Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe. The event is free to attend with the purchase of the book ($14.95). More info here.
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