[This post has been updated.]
YESTERDAY, while giving a conference talk at the University of Maryland, within the school’s Herblock Room, I noted the ability of that legendary Post cartoonist to have so often been both timely and timeless. And so, as I spoke and thought of this week’s Roanoke shooting, I reflected on one Herblock cartoon in particular.
In this cartoon, which has lost none of its power since its judgment was rendered two decades ago, people are seen carrying their dead toward a towering monument to the gun. The cartoon is captioned, “The Daily Sacrifices,” and inscribed on the monument are the words: “In Guns We Trust.”
At times this year, the sacrifices to gun violence ring out as so daily, it can feel as we’re hitting record highs in how low our species can go. But this sense is magnified by the degree of social media and the echo chamber of coverage. Our history through the prism of cartoons bears this out.
During his seven decades of cartooning, Herblock would also depict our nation’s gun violence as a plague, and in one 1971 cartoon, brings kids into the picture, to zoom in on the young can become drawn to the way of the street gun.
From there, we can see the same echoes of umbrage in works this week, like that of Mike Luckovich:
The great Patrick Oliphant, too, will bring kids into the mix, adding sting to his satire by focusing on innocence lost — even juxtaposing a supposed symbol of playful youth like a school bus with students armed for daily campus battle.
Often during his strip’s 45 years, of course, “Doonesbury” creator Garry Trudeau has chronicled urban gunplay, be it by Duke or subway vigilantism run amok.
Even the topic of how the media covers gun violence reads like a constant through-line through the years, whether it’s the late-great Jeff MacNelly decades ago, or Mike Lester and, in mourning, Steve Benson this week.
Several decades ago, the late legend Paul Conrad saw the violence and wanted to hold suppliers’ feet to the gun-fire.
And here is how some cartoonists have reacted this week to fatal shootings in places like Roanoke and Savannah State. Because as sure as death and taxes, gun violence is part of the American daily sacrifice.