I am completely satisfied with this comic. The fruits, the vegetables, the script, the visual juxtapositions, and the layers of symbols. The story is more hopeful than some of Bonnie Jo’s work; that’s why I used the mason jars in the last panel, even though they were destroyed by a fire. For that narrator, they were an aspect of home, and even though her house burned down, she’s still creating this sense of family out of these men, so that a camper, a garage, a tent, and a garden become a home.
There’s this old story–I can’t recall the origins–about a righteous man who is given the opportunity to see hell, which is presented as a long banquet table, weighted down with the most scrumptious and delectable of foods. Everything looks tasty and enticing, but the sinners, seated along both sides of the table, have their arms encased in rigid sleeves. They can see the food, even touch and it and pick it up, but they can’t bend their elbows, so they can’t get it into their mouth.
The righteous man then asks for a glimpse of heaven and is surprised to find that it’s the exact same scenario–table, food, unbending sleeves. The difference is, in heaven, people are feeding their neighbor across the table.
That’s the world we live in, actually. It’s heaven when we care for those around us, and it’s hell when we selfishly think only of ourselves.
But this is all beyond the people with the power to make big decisions, it seems. Being hugely sarcastic seems to be my only remaining defense in a world increasingly populated haters and those with zero regard for anyone else. More guns, more war, more class stratification, more needless consumption of nonrenewable resources. Why not?
Many of the people with the power to make big decisions–a frightening number, really–want war, for financial or religious reasons. The only defense against this type of thinking is to point out, repeatedly, how ridiculous it is, how the suffering of some brings suffering to us all.
Trying out some different cartooning styles. Photoshop makes it easy to get lazy and my intention is to become a better artist. I don’t need any practice being lazy. I saw a comic where the artist drew black and white characters with colored hair and it looked pretty cool there, and here, too. This is me, of course, and Mrs. Kitty with her unicorn hair.
Usually, I don’t use people’s real names in my comics out of respect for their privacy, but in this case, I feel the need to write the name. If, by some magical coincidence, that dude recognizes himself as the perpetrator and wants to apologize for the 3 years of hell through which he put my vulnerable, pre-adolescent self, he’s welcome to step up. I get that I was an annoying kid, that I was weird and a know-it-all and and a tomboy, that I dressed all wrong and didn’t comb my hair enough and had zero ability to read social cues. So you know what would have been cool, if you found me so terrible? Leaving me the hell alone. Not calling me names, not encouraging everyone else to call me names, and definitely not punching me in the face on the school bus. I can attest that it actually does not kill you to be compassionate toward people you don’t like. I do it all the time and have not yet died from it. Sometimes, if you’re really compassionate, you can offer them a few words that may actually help them become less odious. Sometimes people really don’t know what they’re doing wrong, and they could use a little help.
But we still get people like the ones in panel 6, who go around justifying their own jerkiness with circular reasoning. You know how you could stop bullying? By not being a bully. It’s so simple. If it’s not simple to you, then guess what: you are what is referred to in popular parlance as a sociopath. Unless you actually believe that you’re the only real human being in the world and other people are merely set pieces for your drama, you can reduce the amount of suffering in the world by not causing it. Don’t hurt other people to make yourself feel better.
Obviously, there are always going to be narcissists, but we have a choice. We can bow down to the tiny percentage of cruel humans out of fear that we might be singled out as the next target, or we can stand up to tyranny by protecting those who have less power, because there are actually more nice people than horrible ones, and there is power in numbers. We don’t have to fight. All it takes is a few kind, honest words. If today’s kids get anti-bullying lessons (i.e. are taught empathy and compassion) then maybe tomorrow’s adults can fix the terror of a world that wants us to believe that might makes right and that self-esteem is a zero sum game where you can only win by taking from someone else.
I’m not thin-skinned, but bullying is just another form of abuse, and like all abuse, it leaves its mark. It’s an indelible trauma. Yes, it will happen, but no, we can’t ever normalize it. The crimes of childhood have to be forgiven, because children’s brains aren’t done yet, but for adults to condone awful behavior is not forgivable.
Having grown into my dragonhood, I’m over my childhood, but I’m never to going to be over the childhoods of people who are still children. I’m never going to stop protecting people from monsters.