Updated Dec. 7:


(STEVE BREEN / San Diego Union-Tribune)

 

IT’S QUITE striking, really. I’ve been sifting back through tens of thousands of editorial cartoons created since January, and more predominantly than I recall from recent years, one theme especially stayed square in the crosshairs.

The opening days of 2015 brought the horrific events of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, as we know, when 12 people — including five cartoonists — were gunned down in the satirical weekly’s Paris offices. And in the darkest of the ways, that tragedy would not loosen its grip upon America’s political cartoonists. Whether editorial illustrators were particularly attuned to headline brutality after that, on a deeper level — or whether they were simply sharpened to respond in a time especially rife with violence — poring over their recent output heightens the sense of a constant: 2015 has been the Year of the Attack.

It’s not that bloody conflict isn’t a consistent fact of life and death around the globe, of course — there will always be hot spots of devastating human loss. Rather, it’s that stories of high violence, like a psychological drumbeat, so frequently permeated cartoon borders and nested in the arts and minds of our visual commentators.

Perhaps this journalistic reaction was partly sparked by the debates played out by cartoonists themselves, as conversation swirled around what the Hebdo artists’ role in all this was; if freedom of the press is absolute, does that mean you should feel free to satirize anything in the press? Under even mere ideological attack, many cartoonists reexamined the responsibilities of their profession.

It’s been a year so odd and chilling for artists, death even arrived at the door of a contest for drawing cartoons.

And only if the mass shootings, or serial terrorism — choose your own nomenclature — could have been so limited. Who wasn’t under attack in 2015?

Police pinned unarmed children (even only wearing a bikini) to the ground when they weren’t fatally shooting them. Cops were killed in their cars. And in the home, mere preschoolers sometimes found a loaded gun and shot a relative.

Shot in the back. Shot in church. Shot in the shadow of a Confederate flag. Shot at an altar. Shot during an interview. Shot at an office party. Shot on the playground. And shot on camera, for the world to witness and testify.

We seek humor to leaven the emotional heaviness, but not even our cartoonists and late-night comedians can always divert us from the pain. In a world where some fake-news hosts retired or moved on, and at least one real-news host was unmasked as a fabricator, we look to America’s Former Favorite Uncle for comfort, only to discover that “Dr. Huxtable’s” personal pill prescriptions were allegedly long a ruse for rape.

It’s a wonder sometimes how we as a nation can breathe. Perhaps that’s why for now, so many voters are especially drawn to underdogs, upstarts and fiery firebrands like candidates Trump and Sanders; on the stump, they have so much gale force behind their words, all that air brings hope for uplift and takeoff against the daily drag.

ISIS. FBI. NRA. CIA. We are surrounded by acronyms linked to guns and attacks, or to our would-be protection. When even the White House is under attack by multiple fence-jumpers, just how nuts have things become?

We seek escape in the movie theaters in the hopes they won’t be shot up again. And there, two of the most popular animated characters of the year become Fear and Sadness. If might feel as if the light and dark sides of life are at war, and well — it’s no wonder that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is poised to become our biggest holiday balm for escapism.

Some of us look for hope in leaders, like a smiling, touring pope. Or toward black robes instead of white, turning our eyes to our Supreme Court justices.

And then Paris is attacked again, and another American neighborhood is shot up, rocking countless everyday lives.

And so we hope that in 2016, as much as anything, that the world’s cartoonists — at least those not imprisoned or attacked in places like Iran — will have far less headline violence to draw upon.

Even if only for the holidays: Peace on Earth, and on the page.


(ROB ROGERS / Pittsburgh Post Gazette)

by JACK OHMAN/Sacramento Bee (used by permission of the artist)

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by NATE BEELER/Columbus Dispatch (used by permission of the artist)

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(Ann Telnaes/The Washington Post)

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The Sunday "Doonesbury" strip from March 8, 2015, by Garry Trudeau. (courtesy of Universal Uclick)
The Sunday “Doonesbury” strip from March 8, 2015, by Garry Trudeau. (courtesy of Universal Uclick)

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(by Matt Bors / Universal Uclick 2015)

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(by Matt Wuerker / Politico 2015)

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(courtesy of Berkeley Breathed)

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(JOEL PETT / Lexington Herald Leader)

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by CLAY BENNETT / Chattanooga Times Free Press

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by SCOTT STANTIS / Chicago Tribune

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(LALO ALCARAZ / Universal Uclick)
(LALO ALCARAZ / Universal Uclick)

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by KAL (2015 The Baltimore Sun / used by permission of the artist)

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by DARRIN BELL (2014 Washington Post Writers Group)

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(PAT BAGLEY/Salt Lake Tribune)

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by JIMMY MARGULIES (courtesy of Cagle Cartoons/Cagle.com)
by JIMMY MARGULIES (courtesy of Cagle Cartoons/Cagle.com)

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KEITH KNIGHT.
KEITH KNIGHT.

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JEN SORENSEN/Slowpoke Comics
JEN SORENSEN/Slowpoke Comics

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by ADAM ZYGLIS / Buffalo News

by STEVE BENSON / Arizona Republic

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by STEVE KELLEY / Creators Syndicate

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by LISA BENSON / Washington Post Writers Group

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by REBECCA HENDIN / Universal Uclick

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(by MARSHALL RAMSEY)

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(by SIGNE WILKINSON / Philly.com)

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by DAVID HORSEY / Los Angeles Times

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by JACK OHMAN / Sacramento Bee

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by TOM TOLES / The Washington Post

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MATT DAVIES / Newsday

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by STEVE BENSON / Arizona Republic

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(NICK ANDERSON / Hearst Papers)

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(DAVID FITZSIMMONS / Arizona Daily Star)

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(STEVE BREEN / San Diego Union-Tribune)

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(MATT BORS / Universal Uclick)

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(STEVE BENSON / Arizona Republic)

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(by STEVE SACK / Minneapolis Star Tribune and Cagle Cartoons)

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by DAVID POPE / Canberra Times (used by permission of the artist)
by DAVID POPE / Canberra Times (used by permission of the artist)

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(BOB GORRELL / Creators.com)

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(MICHAEL RAMIREZ / Investors Business Daily)

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(MIKE LUCKOVICH / Atlanta Journal Constitution)

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(GARY VARVEL / Indianapolis Star)

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(ADAM ZYGLIS / Buffalo News)

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(JACK OHMAN / Sacramento Bee)

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(GLENN McCOY)
(GLENN McCOY)

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Peace for Paris

A photo posted by @jean_jullien on

And on a personal note, as we think of our colleague still in captivity:

(CAVNA'S CANVAS 2015 / The Washington Post)
Counting the days of injustice. (CAVNA’S CANVAS 2015 / The Washington Post)