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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

June 12, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 48




Tom Fox To laugh or to cry?

Tom Fox NCR publisher

Yellow … orange … red ... What's the terror level today? … You say John Ashcroft is the number one guardian of U.S. civil liberties? … And the purpose of the Bush tax cuts is to stimulate the economy? ... So we're still looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? … What? Republicans don't worry about massive government deficits after all?

Yes, sometimes it's easy to cry.

Like in the mornings, during the heaviest fighting during Iraq II when I would flip on CNN and encounter Paula Zahn and remember what Ted Turner originally set out to do in Atlanta. Or when I wonder, day after day, why more people are not ready to hold Bush accountable for having lied about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction threat. Or when I consider how those tax cuts will one-day effect the lives of our children.

But how about another approach? How about laughter? … Let me tell you.

Recently I stumbled upon a small book and quickly was reminded how healing laughter can be. I discovered the political cartoons of David Rees. I found them in his book, "Get Your War On." (Soft Skull Press, Brooklyn NY). For those of you who might not know, Rees is an Internet phenomenon, maybe the first 21st century Doonsebury.

Within weeks after 9/11 he began posting his satiric cartoons on his website. Word spread. Emails zipped through cyberspace. Soon Rees' take on the human condition in the world scene trapped in current US politics was to an alienated and outcast lot resonating plain truth.

Rather than draw cartoons Rees prefers simple clipart. The usage fits and speaks of weird genius. His two-dimensional characters, found in office settings, scream out their helplessness through the essentially bland nature of their work and lives. The reader bonds immediately with all this powerlessness.

Rees is being called "the Lenny Bruce of sequential art" and "a satirist on the order of Rabelais" and "a social critic on the order of Chomsky" and "a patriot … not unlike Thoreau." Maybe. But one thing is clear. He is hilarious.

I sat down with "Get Your War On" at the bedside of my daughter, recovering from surgery. I have to admit the setting made me ripe for much needed comic relief. But that's the point. What setting today is not in need of comic relief?

The dialogue in Rees' cartoons went to a raw and tender place. Was it the center of deep disappointment or outright anger? Whatever… as they say. It was great tonic.

Rees' book is actually a compilation of his early web cartoons, dating back to after 9/11 and taking us through the war on Afghanistan. The same cartoons can be found on his website where more continue to be added. A note: Rees' proceeds from the book appropriately are going go to land mind clearance in Afghanistan, the author tells us.

Now before I send you to his website I must warn you that you need to be prepared for some bawdy and possibly offensive language. He uses the f-word frequently. If you find that inappropriate, then stay clear. But if you're willing to take the whole tragic comedy, then jump in and join the crowd.

Oh yes, that laughter might lead to tears.

You will find the Rees panels at

Tom Fox is NCR publisher. He can be reached at

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