THE WHITE GLOVE AND AFTER
by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. -- There is a lot of talk in the papers about the ginger= ly way in which comedians are trying to return to the business of making pe= ople laugh. The late-night talk show hosts, who feast on current events, m= ust be having a horrible time of it. I am never up when they are on, so I=
But a cartoon in the "New Yorker" (which had no cartoons in th= e black-cover issue published after 11 September) was by Leo Cullum and was= perfect for this moment in history.
Man & woman in bar. He is wearing a coat with large vivid checks. W= oman: "I thought I'd never laugh again. Then I saw your jacket.'' Thatis = sheer genius. It manages to refer to the terrorist attack, though as obliq= uely as one might imagine, and to be funny.
No sooner had I broken up at this than I remembered that Leo Cullum,= at the time when he used to submit drawings to me as the Cartoon Editor of= the old Saturday Review, was ... an airline pilot! Talk about your tie-in= s!
The problem for the columnist is, if anything, even more insoluble = -- especially for one whose deadline is a week ahead of publication. Nowad= ays a week can be an era in world history.
I woke up at three this morning to discover that I was composing anINK SOUP in my head. Unless I mean that an INK SOUP was compos= ing me, but let us leave the metaphysics for later. This is in either case = not good.
For most of my readers, however, my three in the morning is six= . Hightime to be up, drinking coffee, and reading the American Reporter.=
Vaguely, the idea was this: that terror aims not at the immediatetarget= but at the aftermath. Unimaginable as 6000 deaths are, they aremerely--me= rely!--the casus belli. The REAL target of the terrorist iswhat follows, th= e reaction provoked by the attack.
If it were not for the risk of trivializing them, one could almost trans= late the events of that Tuesday into the code duello. In the ancien= t code of dueling the provocation is, in today's terms, all but affectionat= e. One dandy removes a white glove and uses it to slap, not hard, the chee= k of his enemy.
That is step one, and everyone tingling with excitement behind thepunchb= owl and beneath the great chandelier of the rotunda understands it.
The = next step is the selection of seconds, the selection of weapons, pistols or= swords, and the selection of the secluded spot where the offense will be w= iped out by the death of one or the other of the offended parties.
If, fo= r instance, the reaction to September 11th includes (as it has already) sen= seless killings of Americans who happen to be Muslims, then the real goal o= f the terrorists, the one beyond the destruction of expensive urban real es= tate, is succeeding. Anyone who even insults a person merely because that = person is wearing a turban or a veil is, inthe most literal sense, an ally = of the terrorists.
Bigots of every nation, and the terrorists were nothing if not bigots = in the classical sense, share a mind-set: difference is, because incomprehe= nsible, dangerous and therefore evil.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus ofCompara= tive Literature at Princeton University.