Mexicans angry over American cartoon

An editorial cartoon of the Mexican flag has stirred up a hornet’s nest in Mexico — with a lot of help from Mexican newspapers that plastered the American cartoon all over their front pages. The cartoon, by MSNBC cartoonist Daryl Cagle, shows the flag riddled with bullet holes and the central eagle lying in a pool of blood.

Mexicans are up in arms, hardly a figure of speech these days, over this “desecration” of their flag. To them I would say, “Welcome to the grown-up world of international politics.” This cartoon is pretty mild compared to some I’ve seen. And besides, cartoonists don’t pick on a country unless there is something to be said about it. In this case, the attention is to Mexico’s drug wars. If the problem didn’t exist, the cartoon would never have been drawn.

Mexicans best stop being so sensitive if they want to get along in the big world — the one where everyone constantly takes potshots at you and your politics, your internal squabbles, your leaders, your religion, and yes, your flag. If Mexicans don’t like this cartoon, they should clean up their drug wars. Because as long as those go on, they will be fodder for cartoonists all over the world.

Americans have endured every imaginable desecration of Old Glory; it has been burned, shredded, spat upon, stomped on, hung upside down, and painted with unimaginable symbols and words. Worse, a lot of that was done by Americans! But we’re still standing. We know that free speech is protected here and that all these things are expressions of protected free speech. Daryl Cagle’s free speech, too, is protected.

The Mexican embassy is sending a formal letter of protest to MSNBC, and readers have complained on Cagle’s blog that Mexico has a law against parodies of the Mexican flag. I hope both the ambassador and those readers realize that Mexican law does not apply in this country. (They can perhaps be excused, since their Pres. Calderón seems to think the U.S. must abide by his wishes.)

It’s understandable that Mexicans might not like the cartoon. While some feel their flag has been desecrated, others may be embarrassed that their drug wars have drawn such international criticism. But neither righteous indignation nor an inferiority complex is an effective way to deal with other nations. Patriotism is great, but Mexican patriotism doesn’t trump ours or anyone else’s.

I can imagine some Mexican standing there, tears of indignation on his or her face, insisting that we don’t understand how they feel about their flag. And I grant you, there may indeed be cultural differences in how we perceive our respective flags. But Mexico has bigger fish to fry than how one American cartoonist draws their flag. And the sooner they realize it, the better. Americans will not be stifling their commentary because it hurts Mexican feelings, any more than we’ll stop waving our flag when another flag is present, or stop defending our border because it interferes with Mexican “migration,” or stop deporting illegal Mexican immigrants because Pres. Calderón thinks Arizona’s law is racial profiling.



Categories: art/design, International, Law

Tags: ,

8 replies

  1. I see most of the problems in the news these days as mere symptoms of the underlying real problems.
    If you can connect the dots, I think this presentation by Milton Friedman illustrates the same thing.

    • It’s a stretch to say the issues of flags, free speech, and national sensitivities boil down to economic incentives. Admittedly, without economic incentives, the drug wars might not exist, and without the incentive of a paycheck, the cartoonist might not have drawn the cartoon, but that’s really not the point.

      Economists see everything as economically motivated. Philosophers see everything as a philosophical riddle. Theologians think it’s all inspired by religion or the lack thereof. Being none of these, I can’t wholly subscribe to any of them.

      • A stone cast into the water radiates ripples in every direction of the compass. An unpopular, unenforceable prohibition has consequences that encompass philosophy, religion and even economics. Only a couple of years ago our own congress was embroiled in legislation designed to prohibit (criminalize) desecration of the US flag. Common sense? I’m with you on its being in short supply.

  2. I do wonder if at some point the rest of the world will figure out that spazzing out over a cartoon is just proving the point. But I think asking most individuals to think about something like that and use a bit of common sense is usually asking far too much.

  3. I know. It’s such a joke. I almost wrote about it today, but you beat me to it and captured my thoughts on it perfectly.

“I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope.” ~ Cornel West

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