Originally posted by quarkstomper on 09/08/07
I was sitting behind a table at a craft fair about a month after the attacks of September 11, 2001. I was doing cartoon portraits of people. At least that was what I was supposed to be doing; our table was tucked away in a corner near the exit and most people who came by were hurrying on their way out. To pass the time while waiting for customers, I pulled out my pad of bristol board and began drawing.
As I said, this was about a month after 9/11, and many of the vendors at the craft fair were selling patriotic-themed items: carved wooden Uncle Sams, painted plaster eagles, star-spangled quilts, that sort of thing. And it got me thinking.
I saw a lot of patriotic imagery following the 9/11 attacks; some of it kitschy, a lot of it angry, all of it full of a fervernt love of country.
The one that I saw the most frequently was a picture I somewhat irreverantly called “The Tear-Stained Eagle.” You’ve undoubtably seen it; it was reproduced and copied and imitated countless times. The head of a bald eagle, seen in profile, with a large tear descending down it’s face; while in the background we see the burning Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
But a lot of the images I saw were angry. I remember one powerful political cartoon from just after 9/11: An American eagle with an expression of angry determination is filing its talons. It captured the mood of the time. And it was sadly prophetic: we as a nation wanted vengence so bad that we were willing to go after anybody, whether they were guilty of the attacks or not.
Another eagle picture I remember was from a T-shirt I saw at work. It showed an eagle in flight, coming straight at the viewer with it’s talons extended and it’s beak open in full cry. The caption, incongruously, read: “FREEDOM”. It was a cool pic, but the caption should have read something like “PAYBACK” or “DON’T TREAD ON ME” or “I’M GONNA GET YOU, SUCKA!”
As I sat at that craft fair in the local UAW hall, I knew I wanted to draw something patriotic; but I didn’t want it to be angry or vindictive or even sorrowful. I wanted to portray some of the qualities I think our country embodies at its best: optimism, confidence, the spirit to pick ourselves up and work to make things better. I like to think that these, rather than mere affluence or military might, are what make this country great.
Since I am a cartoonist, I drew a cartoon that I hoped would show these qualities; the qualities I hoped would guide us in the Post-9/11 world.
I was wrong. Our leaders chose to invoke the Angry Eagle rather than Smilin’ Sam.
And our country is the worse for it.