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.