Archive for Politics

History Under the Mask

Cap-Truth

Truth: Red, White & Black

I’ve had a mind to review this one for ages, and African American History Month seems like a great time to do it. This was a seven-issue series published by Marvel back in 2003. It was written by the late Robert Morales and illustrated by Kyle Baker. It made a lot of racist douchegoblins really mad back in the day, so I figure it’s certainly worth reading.

Our setup here is that, after Steve Rogers becomes Captain America and Professor Erskine, the secretive creator of the Super-Soldier formula, is killed, the military is desperate to recreate the formula. And since they have almost no idea what was in the formula, they have to experiment with a lot of different concoctions, and they have to experiment on people they don’t give a damn about. So a bunch of black soldiers get recruited into the program, injected with variations of the formula, and die by the score.

“Why, that’s ridiculous! Black people would never be experimented on like that! All lives matter!”

To which, all you really have to say is Tuskegee. Which went on for 40 years, primarily for the sake of plain ol’ meanness.

Anyway, of the 300 men inducted into the new Super-Soldier program, only six survive, and are gifted with increased strength, stamina — and often, significant disfiguring mutations. They’re sent on dangerous missions against the Nazis, and over time, a combination of battlefield casualties and deaths from the unstable Super-Soldier formulas whittles their number down to just one — Isaiah Bradley. Frustrated by the military’s racist treatment and the inconsequential and foolish missions he’s been sent on, Bradley steals a spare Captain America uniform and takes the fight to the Nazis by himself — and he gets captured.

The story doesn’t take place entirely in the past — in the present day, Steve Rogers learns about the alternate Super-Soldier program for the first time and begins his own investigation of what happened to Isaiah Bradley. While he shuts down a number of racists who’d profited from exploiting black soldiers decades ago, he also discovers that Bradley’s ultimate legacy was perhaps even more amazing than his wartime career.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a great story, with outstanding action, characterization, empathy, and unpredictability. There are several points where you think the story is going to go one way, but it completely surprises you and goes the other.

It’s an intensely emotional book, too — not merely because the lead characters have strong emotions, but because the emotions are so realistic and raw. Early in the Super-Soldier testing process, the families of all the inductees are told that they’ve been killed — and many other black soldiers are actually murdered to cover up the crimes — and the toll on the families is covered extensively. The anguish that comes from these unexpected deaths is rendered amazingly well, and their pain is felt by the reader, too. It’s not just the writing here — Kyle Baker’s art really brings it home. Sometimes the sorrow is visible and unmistakable, and sometimes it’s hidden below the surface, but it all feels real.

Baker’s art is often very cartoony, which is initially a shock when you start reading. It’s very far from the Marvel standard, but for the most part, it’s something you get used to quickly. Baker is a cartoonist’s cartoonist, and it’s a thrill to see him work. His vision here is intensely important, too — you can tell the characters mean a lot to him, and he works hard to make everyone unique and interesting. His work is, like I said before, emotionally resonant, from the faces to the eyes to the body language.

The comic is obviously fiction, but Morales’ appendix at the end of the book is definitely worth reading. He details some of his research and outlines how some of the scenes in the story were inspired. For history buffs, it’s a good read and includes suggestions for other books worth checking out.

It’s a sad comic in a lot of ways. But it’s got its unique glories, too, in moments both crashing and quiet. It’s also not at all easy to find — you can’t get it from Amazon without paying $50 or more. But I found my copy a couple years ago in one of the local comic shops for a normal price, so do some digging around. You should also be able to find it digitally. If you can find it, you’ll be very glad you got the opportunity to read it, so go pick it up.

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Marching for Equality

March-Book2

March, Book Two

We’ve already reviewed Book One — check out the review over here.

I trust you know the general background of this one — it’s the autobiography of civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis, told as a graphic novel. It’s cowritten by one of his staffers, a comics fan named Andrew Aydin, with art by Nate Powell.

This second chapter of the series gets us deeper into the weeds of the civil rights movement, just as it begins to get a lot more violent for the participants. They’re attacked at movie theaters, someone locks them in a diner, then fills it full of poison bug spray, their buses are run off the road and set on fire, they’re beaten by local thugs, the Klan, and the police, they’re attacked at churches, they’re thrown in jail.

But all of this is getting a lot of interest from the public all across the nation and the world. Some of the people who are also being attacked are members of the press, and members of President Kennedy’s staff. The violence of the segregated South was getting more and more attention and attracting more and more people who felt it was time for everyone to be equal. Thugs like Bull Connor were making things even worse for the status quo, upping the savagery of his attacks on innocent people until just about everyone in the country was disgusted.

The last quarter of the book focuses on the March on Washington — not just the videos you’ve seen on YouTube, but the behind-the-scenes negotiations that made it possible. One of the organizers was gay and was outed by Strom Thurmond in an attempt to discredit the march. Lewis’s speech had to go through extensive rewrites to keep it from sounding like an outright call for revolution. It’s a triumphant note — but the struggle was far from over. Less than a month after the march, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed, killing four little girls.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This book is going to make you unbelievably furious. It has good reason to do so, and we should all be furious about the massive injustices of this period in our national history. Yes, the March on Washington is genuinely inspiring, but most of the book is a recounting of injustice after injustice after injustice, and anyone who doesn’t get mad about that just isn’t paying attention. And people who want us to forget this should be ashamed of themselves.

There’s another reason I get angry when I read this book. You already know there are a lot of people who want to restrict voting rights and invent barriers to keep non-white people from voting. They always tell you they’re not racist, they’re just worried about illegal voting. That’s bull. These people are racist scum, and that’s all there is to it.

Y’all have heard me rant before about liberals who’ve decided the only way to solve the problem of racism in the South is to expel the South from the United States. The thing these supposedly good liberals don’t realize is that when they say things like that, they’re also spitting in the faces of the great civil rights leaders and openly siding with the Bull Connors.

Liberals who want to expel the South would be giving Southern racists free rein to turn the clock back as far as they wanted, essentially abandoning millions of blacks, Hispanics, women, gays, trans people, atheists, and even other liberals to people who would gleefully enslave, imprison, oppress, and execute them. Liberals who want to expel the South are signaling their willingness to do the KKK’s bidding, to give the wingnuts the victory they’ve always dreamed of. They’re siding with Jefferson Davis over Abraham Lincoln. They’re looking at the hard work and sacrifices of John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and thousands of others, and declaring they don’t care, it was all a failure, and let’s just let injustice rule again.

That’s a lot of the reason this book makes me angry. We’ve come so far — but still not far enough — and too many people are willing to abandon all that progress because they’re bored. And because they know they won’t suffer any of the consequences.

March, Book Two is a great book. You should definitely go pick it up.

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Take the Plunge

ManifestDestiny11

Manifest Destiny #11

Lewis has a plan to harpoon the giant frog monster in the river to get the boat towed free from the arch it’s beached on. The problem is that when they throw it bait, its leaps into the air to catch it aren’t predictable enough for harpooners to hit. So a different solution is hit upon — dangle bait from a tree, then harpoon the monster when it leaps up to take the bait. And they’re going to use the rapist Hardy as the bait. The operation is mostly successful — the beast is harpooned, and Hardy only loses a leg — but now that it’s been struck, the monster is diving and pulling the boat underwater. Is there any way to save the boat and crew?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Outstanding, tense story, with great character work, beautiful artwork (yes, even of the monsters), and unexpectedly great action.

EvilEmpire6

Evil Empire #6

We learn how President Sam Duggins got so messed up, and how he goes about consolidating his power — mainly by killing his Congressional opponents, rewriting the Constitution to make sociopathy the law of the land, and lots and lots of marketing. The new resistance, led by Reese and Theo, start making plans to overthrow Duggins, and their first act is to use some sort of hypertech CD to hack the DJ’s setup at a presidential drugs-and-sex party by the Washington Monument to make fun of Duggins. The Duggins administration reacts by shooting a few lowlifes, turning Disneyland into a pornographic park, revealing his incestuous relationship with his sister, and making her his vice president. Right now, the only benefit the resistance has is a mole on the inside of the administration.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I’m done with this book. It was sold as a semi-realistic vision of how the U.S. could end up going fascist, but it’s turned into a cartoon. The ease that Duggins flips most of the country into quasi-nazis is just beyond my ability to even kinda believe. In reality, pretty much everyone in Congress would be in Duggins’ opposition — the Republicans wouldn’t trust him because he’d run as a Democrat, and the Democrats would hate him for lying about everything in his campaign. Yes, Duggins would probably be able to get a lot of America’s cops to do his dirty work — but not near all of them. Maybe half, if he was lucky. And the military wouldn’t go for him, either — a guy banging his sister and running cocaine orgies on the National Mall just doesn’t have any kind of respectable discipline.

And again, there’s the fascism thing. There’s the incest-with-his-sister thing. There’s the let’s-make-America-legally-psychopathic thing. I don’t care how good your PR is — you’re not going to get enough people to go along with that. You might be able to get the fringe-of-the-fringe of either political party to go along with mass assassinations and turning Disneyland into an orgy camp, but 90% of the country would want your head on a stick.

And how stupid is the resistance? They’re somehow able to sneak into a presidential hedonism party, with one of the most famous pop stars in the country — and a known opponent of the crazy evil president — looming in the shadows just inside the treeline — nice work, Secret Service — and they go with sneaking a magic-tech CD that lets them use the DJ’s equipment to make fun of Duggins? Instead of taking advantage of the lax security and coked-up partygoers to put a bullet in Duggins’ head?

This is a crappy comic book, with badly thought-out ideas. I ain’t reading this no more.

Today’s Cool Links:

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The Last of the West

AllStarWestern34

All Star Western #34

I’d stopped reading this one a long time back, but that was less about disliking the character or the creators and more about my usual general malaise. But this is the last issue — and Darwyn Cooke is doing the art. And I’ll always buy a comic that’s got Darwyn Cooke doing Jonah Hex art.

There’s a lot of this that I missed out on, but at some point, Jonah Hex traveled to the present day, met some superheroes, and got plastic surgery to fix his face. But he’s back in the Old West where he belongs now, and he’s just met up with his fellow bounty hunter and sometime lover Tallulah Black. They’ve heard that there’s an outlaw impersonating him holed up in the next town over, and Jonah wants to see what this is all about. At the same time, traveling to the future meant that he also learned how he’d die, and he’s been dreading how it’s going to happen. Is there a future for Jonah Hex beyond getting murdered and sold to a taxidermist?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A big chunk of the appeal is Darwyn Cooke’s art — but it’s also great to watch Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti bid farewell to some characters they obviously care deeply about. I do love the fact that Jonah Hex is still very definitely Jonah Hex, even without his famous scars — and even more than that, I love the fact that Jonah’s all purty now, and he still loves the terribly scarred Tallulah. And most of all, I love the fact that we get a gloriously violent and crude Jonah Hex adventure mixed in with the perfect hope-for-the-future ending that you’d never expect Jonah Hex to actually get. And it all works perfectly.

EvilEmpire4

Evil Empire #4

I’m gonna spoil the heck out of this comic, ’cause otherwise, I can’t tell you why I thought it was not good.

Rebellious pop star Reese Greenwood and her bodyguard Theo have just watched Kenneth Laramy, jailed presidential candidate and unofficial leader of the pro-fascism movement, admit he’d just been along for the ride, desperate to get away from all the crazy nuts proclaiming him their new messiah — and then he got shot dead by his own supporters. Luckily, the feds tear in and save Reese and Theo. This leaves single liberal Sam Duggins as the only real candidate for the presidency. And then, after the election results are announced, and Sam is about to make his acceptance speech, Reese learns that Sam’s sister Julia was sleeping with and manipulating Laramy. And then Reese and Theo both learn that Sam and Julia are having an incestuous relationship. And then Sam gives an acceptance speech claiming that he agreed with Laramy and believes that it’s time the country abandons all pretense of morality to become a nation fully dedicated to evil.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I was enjoying the heck out of this until the ending of this issue, because it makes no freakin’ sense. In the real world, if a Democrat was elected president and then gave a speech just after the results were announced saying that, nope, he was actually in full agreement with his Republican opponent about everything, he’d be lucky to get anything done in office at all. The Democrats would be furious and would refuse to support him at all. The Republicans might be glad to have a surprise Republican in the White House, but they also wouldn’t trust the guy who’d spent years telling everyone he was a liberal. (And, by the way, the same would hold true if a Republican had suddenly switched parties after the election.)

You know what you definitely wouldn’t get? You definitely wouldn’t get everyone in the country to just go “Oh, hey, the president wants us to be evil now, come on, everyone!” I could sorta believe it when Laramy was pushing the whole thing as letting angry people push back as hard as they want when people irritate or offend them. I mean, we’ve all seen what the NRA looks like nowadays, right? But you know who wakes up and decides to embrace cartoon-evil just because the president says so? Ain’t nobody.

This series just faceplanted hard, and they are really going to have to work to make me keep reading.

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President Evil

EvilEmpire2

Evil Empire #2

So how did the future fascist America come about? We rewind 25 years to the present day, where presidential candidate Kenneth Laramy has just used his eulogy at his wife’s funeral to confess to her murder and to declare that it should be legal to kill anyone who you think really deserves it. While controversial and rebellious rapper Reese Greenwood starts a romance with Sam Duggins, the other presidential candidate, Laramy is quickly convicted and jailed, but he uses his trial to preach his psychotic gospel of absolute, unrestrained freedom and if-it-feels-good-do-it bloodshed — and as a result, a wave of violence sweeps the nation. And even worse, the police and prison guards are largely on Laramy’s side, and they allow him to leave prison so he can continue to encourage people to embrace violence and anarchy.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was plenty doubtful last issue that the creators would be able to build a believable history that brought about a serious fascist dictatorship. But everything about Laramy’s pro-violence platform feels somewhat ripped from the headlines. We do actually have pro-sedition militia loons who want to kill lots of people, and they’re being egged on by big media pundits, partly for the ratings, partly because they know they’ll never get punished for inciting riots, murders and terrorist attacks. We got Florida, which basically legalized murder. We got Georgia, which wants people to carry guns in bars, schools, churches, and airports. We got legislators and billionaires waging illogical wars on homeless people, on the poor, on women and minorities, on solar energy, of all things, on the very concepts of human empathy and compassion.

We can turn on the TV and see sociopaths hosting news shows and appearing as honored guests, doing everything they can to encourage more sociopathy, more violence, more racism. About the only thing keeping the comic book from looking too much like real life is the spectacular lack of charisma or forethought going on among the political and media leaders on the rightward side of the aisle. In the real world, thank goodness, the percentage of psychotics in the population is much, much lower.

Ghosted9

Ghosted #9

Jackson Winters is in huge trouble. He’s successfully rescued Nina Blood Crow from the Brotherhood of the Closed Book, but now they’re both trapped in a jungle haunted by hundreds of dead, angry animals. And the only people who can rescue them are, unfortunately, the Brotherhood of the Closed Book. And even worse, the Brotherhood is working with Nina’s mother, Wenona Blood Crow, an organized crime kingpin who helped get Nina possessed by the vengeful spirit of the Skadegamutc. Plus we also get a flashback of Jackson’s last big casino heist and why it went so disastrously, terrifyingly wrong.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a gloriously creepy, bloody story, and it was spectacular fun to read. If y’all love good horror comics, you should be reading this series.

Today’s Cool Links:

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This, That and the Other

I got a whole big bucket of stuff I wanna talk about today, and comics reviews ain’t even a one of ’em.

ITEM 1:

FantasticFour1

They’ve announced the cast for the rebooted Fantastic Four movie. And for the most part, my lone reaction is a colossal shrug — I’m not very good at mass-media consumption anymore, and I didn’t recognize the names of any of the actors. But what’s really got certain members of the racist douchebucket fanboy brigade up in arms is that Johnny Storm is going to be played by Michael B. Jordan, a black actor.

There are two proper reactions to this: braying mockery or really excellent commentary examining race in the comics.

Ultimately, this is about smart casting — Jordan is a well-respected actor, it gets the movie a quick pop of controversy, thanks to the never-shutting-up racist population, and it gives comic book movies the opportunity to grow out of the These-Are-Only-For-White-People niche they’ve been locked into for too long.

ITEM 2:

FunHome

A bunch of bigots in the South Carolina legislature actually want to cut funds from a university for suggesting students read Alison Bechdel’s brilliant “Fun Home” graphic novel.

One of the legislators, a Republican from Greenville, SC named Garry Smith said, “One of the things I learned over the years is that if you want to make a point, you have to make it hurt.”

And one of the things I’ve learned over the years is that if you find a moralizing Republican lawmaker in South Carolina, you’re pretty damn certain to find out that he spends his free time having sex with barnyard animals. All it takes is enough patient research into Rep. Smith’s background.

ITEM 3:

TI994A

I’m looking forward to the next week or so here in Denton — it’s the beginning of GeeKon, a celebration of all things geeky and awesome. It’s mostly geared toward college students, but I hope I can enjoy some of the events without anyone complaining too much about the middle-aged fat guy in the crowd.

I’ll probably end up missing out on a lot of events — some of the film screenings will be taking place during work hours, and some of the other events are really geared so strongly toward geeks in their 20s that I think I’d feel much too awkward being in the audience — but I’m really looking forward to the UNT Comics Studies Conference, which focuses on academic approaches to comics.

And finally…

Dillweed

Greg Abbott is a dillweed.

A racist, sexist, homophobic, cowardly dillweed.

When I take over this state, Greg Abbott is going to get escorted to the nearest state line and told to get out and not come back.

And when it comes to the nearest state line, I intend to start measuring from Galveston.

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Marching for Justice

March-Book1

March: Book One

When I heard about this one, I knew I’d have to get it.

It’s basically the autobiography of civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis, in graphic-novel format. The project came about because some of his staff were making jokes about staffer Andrew Aydin, who was a comics fan, but Lewis pointed out that a comic book about Martin Luther King, Jr. helped inspire him to get involved in the civil rights movement. Soon, Aydin was co-writing this book with Lewis, while Nate Powell put the art together.

Though the book starts out with what’s probably the most horrifying incident of Lewis’ life — when state troopers attacked peaceful marchers and fractured his skull on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama — we soon settle into a more straightforward biography. We visit Lewis as a child, obsessed with being a preacher and delivering passionate sermons to the family’s chickens as practice. We watch him growing up, going to college, becoming more socially aware, meeting Martin Luther King, becoming an activist…

Approximately the last half of the book focuses on the lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville, following them from the organizing and planning stages through the actual sit-ins and through the trials and aftermath. It’s simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s an amazing work of art, exciting, scary, beautiful, inspiring, and informative all at once. Part memoir, part history.

Like I said, a big chunk of the book is devoted to the sit-ins, and they’re probably the most interesting parts of the story, especially for those of us who were too young to have heard about these while they were happening.

I never knew that participants had to go through training sessions to make sure they were really willing to abide by the principles of non-violence — there was a lot of roleplaying involved, with everyone calling each other names, heaping abuse on each other, blowing cigarette smoke in their faces and dousing them with water — because that’s what they knew would happen at protests, and they had to make sure that everyone could handle the pressure without snapping and punching some Nashville cop in the neck.

And the specifics of the sit-ins were pretty interesting, too — all the detail and planning that went into them, what actually happened during the sit-ins, how people reacted, they’re all extremely informative. All of this got glazed over in school, so we never learned any of this. The history makes it worth reading.

Is there rude language? Yes, there is — racial epithets are used, just as they were used in real life. Is it still kid-friendly? I think it is. Again, this is historical info, and it’s important for kids and adults to know what happened. There’s nothing explicit — there’s no gore, no sex, no over-the-top swearing — but the difficulty of life in the South for African-Americans, and what it was like to attend protests and marches — none of this is sugar-coated, and none of it should be.

It’s a great story, it’s all true, and it’s the first graphic novel written by a member of Congress! I’d consider that a must-read. Go pick it up.

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Guns n’ Posers

GunGlory

So, it looks like it’s time to talk politics again.

See, there’s this video from the crazy guy who plans to go out and shoot people, possibly randomly, possibly not, if there’s anything at all done about gun control. He started thinking all the talk on the news about him shooting his mouth off was just plain awesome publicity, ’cause he was somehow building an army of supporters who would help him wage war against the government and defeat tyranny. He probably has changed his opinion about all that publicity since then, ’cause his home state of Tennessee said, “Whoops, man, you’re completely crazy and a likely danger to other people, so we’re revoking your gun licenses.”

Here’s how I feel about gun control issues. I’m generally okay with folks owning guns. I know folks who live in the country or in the mountains — they own guns because they sometimes have dangerous wild animals come on their property, and because it takes a half-hour for the cops to come if they call. I know folks who hunt, and folks who like to shoot at the range, and folks who own a gun for protection (though I kinda suspect they’d be more likely to shoot themselves in a crisis). And I’m okay with them owning that stuff.

I don’t see any reason for people to own machine guns or armor-piercing ammo. And I don’t have a single solitary problem with banning those. It’s called a “well-regulated militia,” and “well-regulated” doesn’t mean “not regulated.”

But aaaaanyway, back to the crazy in the video. These guys actually amuse me a bit. The guys who talk about raising an army of gun fanatics to go out to fight the tyranny of the duly-elected black guy in the White House. ‘Cause real life is not a Stallone or Bronson movie. It’s not a John Wayne Western. It’s not “Red Dawn.”

Real life would, if he was lucky, see this twit shot down by the cops in about 30 seconds. If he was unlucky, he’d shoot a few cops, and then he’d get mowed down by the SWAT team and his family might spend a few years in jail for aiding and abetting. If he’s really unlucky, his War Against Tyranny would go bad wrong, and he’d accidentally shoot a mailman, or a housewife, or a preschooler, or a bunch of preschoolers, and he’d get mowed down AND he’d hit front page news and convince even more people to support gun control.

And if he’s really, really, really unlucky, he or some nimrod he or the NRA are encouraging will shoot at some politician. Then the feds will stick every gun-humping wingnut in the pen or Gitmo, investigate every NRA member down to the lint in their bellybuttons, shut down the NRA in a heartbeat… and they’d do it with the support of an overwhelming majority of the American people, too. ‘Cause Americans enjoy a little smacktalk, they like violent movies and games, they enjoy fantasizing about being the hero with the giant high-caliber hand-cannons defeating the bad guys. But they don’t actually like non-pretend violence. It freaks ’em out, and probably justifiably so. Pretend violence is fun in movies. Real violence leads to real people getting real dead. And people who run around inflicting violence on other people tend to become very unpopular and go to prison for a long time.

Ask the once-popular militias in the ’90s how they liked it when McVeigh blew up the Murrah building in Oklahoma City. The atmosphere got pretty damn chilly, and most of the militias closed up shop quick.

So yeah, the dude’s crazy, but he’s almost funny. He thinks he’s gonna overthrow the government with a half-dozen hicks carrying sawed-offs. You almost wanna watch him try — hillbilly with an AK vs. a bunker buster, place yer bets — if only it weren’t for the chance that he’d put a bullet in someone who didn’t deserve it.

Seriously, we comic geeks love heroic storytelling. We love stories about heroes, both super and otherwise. We read books and comics about superheroes, we play games about superheroes, we watch movies and TV shows about superheroes. But we generally have enough of a grasp on reality that we don’t try to fly off a building or bounce bullets off our chests. ‘Cause fantasy is fine… but you just don’t want to get it confused with reality.

And it strikes me that some of these gun fanatics think the real world plays by the same rules as “The Expendables” or “The Matrix.”

Again, I’m fine with probably 90% of the guns in the U.S. staying right where they are. I would, however, be much happier if the loons who think they can whup the biggest army in the world with a half-dozen pea-shooters, would siddown, have a spoon full of peanut butter, and start thinking of the world a little more realistically. It’s not good for the world when the comic fans are the ones with their heads screwed on straight when it comes to fantasy vs. reality…

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It’s Time to Pass National Voting Standards

I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to think of something I wanted to blog about. I already finished my comics reviews, and any other comic book news has been pretty generically dull and/or depressing.

But everyone’s minds are still pretty stuck on politics for now, so let’s just knock something out about that.

One of the things that’s been bugging me lately is the wide disparity between voting conditions in various states and cities. While many people were able to get into their voting location, vote, and get gone within mere minutes, there were plenty of stories about people in other areas who had to wait in line for hours and hours. Nearly all of these long lines seemed to take place in districts that had large minority populations or large numbers of poor people.

Some precincts have touch-screen voting machines, some have scroll-wheel machines, some use lever machines, some use pencil and paper.

In Ohio, Florida, and other states, politicians have been trying to drastically cut the number of days that early voting goes on, mostly as a way to reduce the number of people who vote in elections. And the voter ID laws seem to have been invented, not to stop any voter fraud, since that’s almost nonexistent, but to make it much more difficult for certain classes of people to vote.

Here in Texas, the state passed a law that said your NRA membership card was considered a legal voter ID. Your university ID card, however, was not. (The courts overturned the law before the election.)

The whole thing is really messed up.

I think it’s time the United States had a single national standard for voting. Early voting should be the same days all over the country. States shouldn’t be able to play crooked games to keep people away from the ballot box. Voting requirements should be standardized everywhere. There should always be enough voting machines to accommodate everyone who wants to vote in a precinct. And if voting machines can’t be made secure, we should go back to pen-and-paper ballots.

There isn’t a single reason for minority districts in Florida to have a more difficult time voting than rural white districts in Kansas. There’s no reason why Jon Husted, the Ohio Secretary of State, should be allowed to get away with as many underhanded, if not illegal, attempts to restrict the right to vote as he’s been making in the last few months.

And frankly, I think Election Day should be a holiday — I hate hearing that employers sometimes won’t let their employees have time off to vote, and a national holiday would guarantee that almost everyone would have enough time to make it to their polling place. And I kinda think Australia has the right idea. Down Under, voting is compulsory. No whining that you’d rather stay home and sleep, or that you hate all the candidates. Too bad, so sad, go vote.

I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to get politicians to do all of that honestly or competently. But I really think it’s time we started trying to do it. So could you please take the time today to write your Congressmen, legislators, and any other politicians you can, and encourage them to start bringing the U.S. in line with the rest of the civilized world?

Muchos gracias.

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Vote or Else!

It’s Election Day, people.

I’ll make this real simple. I got my preferences for who I’d like to see win the election today, but ultimately, I just want to see as many people vote as possible. It’s America, fer cryin’ out loud — we were the first place to do democracy right, and we ought to keep doing it every chance we get.

So I don’t care who you vote for. Just get out there and vote, if you haven’t voted already. ‘Cause if you don’t vote, I’m going to put multiple hatchets through your torso.

Word to the wise, as they say.

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