Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The 4th of July

     At dinner last night, I asked my family what the Fourth of July meant to them.  Unfortunately but not surprisingly, like much of our demographic, my daughters reported that it didn't mean terribly much to them.  My twelve-year-old commented that it was difficult to celebrate the country right now, which is perfectly understandable considering how harshly her belief system is being assailed (by both ends of the political spectrum -- her belief system puts a premium on cooperation).  It does raise the question, what do we honor when we celebrate "the country"?  Is it the country's history?  It's philosophy?  It's reigning political party or president?  It's future?  Even within any of these categories, we must then determine what any of those things actually means to us.
     My fourteen-year-old said that, apart from the country's birthday, the Fourth of July was the day she must powerfully remembered her grandfather.  It would have made her grandfather very happy to know that he was associated with that day.  A World War II veteran and life-long democrat, he never lost faith in his country though he lived through some particularly faith-threatening times (Richard Nixon comes most directly to mind).  One of the few times I ever saw him shed tears was the day the United States elected its first president of color.  He once noted that he was proud of his children (one a social worker, one a teacher and one an art dealer like he was) because they were "good for the country."
     Maybe my older daughter's idea was the right one, that we can honor the country by honoring people who exemplify characteristics of great Americans.  My father's patriotic idealism was quiet but undaunted, and in retrospect that unflagging ability to believe in the best possibilities is perhaps the things I most admire about him.  It is without a doubt one of the many things I wish I could ask him for some advice on today. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Hope

     A writer hopes to contribute something relevant to the world, by way of social, political or basic human insight.  However, recently I've observed that my insights might not be completely welcome, based on my being a white male.  I write (and live) under the assumption that all humans draw from the same reservoir of emotions.  Some humans, most unfortunately, have had occasion to experience certain emotions much more deeply and more often.  Should I not attempt a projection of that experience in an effort to offer insight?  If not, then I'm trapped into either offending or rendering my efforts irrelevant.
     It's not lost on me that perhaps being silenced when I feel I need to speak is an experience I'm long overdue in having (along with the other white males).  I'm just terrified at the idea that art is no longer something we can all, at some level, share.
        

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Superhero at 80

     A one-day-belated birthday to the Man of Steel, whose first appearance in Action Comics 1, though cover-dated June, hit newsstands on April 18th, 1938.  Eighty years later to the day, Action Comics 1000 hit comic stores yesterday.  From two-fisted, tough talking champion of social justice, defender of the oppressed and scourge of corrupt politicians to iconic symbol of humanity's best values and hopes, Superman seems as necessary a symbol now as ever before. 
     An eightieth birthday makes a fine time to revisit, or experience for the first time, what makes the character great.  This New York Times article is quite helpful in that regard.
     Not incidentally to all this, it's good to see that eighty years after their invention, superheroes are still leaders in a particular field of specialty: breaking down walls, in this country and all across the world.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

American Social Discourse

     As reported in the New York Times, Ta-Nehisi Coates, "one of the country's best known intellectuals" and recent writer for the Black Panther comic, will be taking over writing on Captain America in July.  So, to sum up, one of our preeminent social thinkers is consistently choosing the form of comics to hold a discourse with the American people.  In the immortal words of Stan Lee, "'nuff said."


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Revisiting

     I got a look at Library Quarterly's full review of Graphic Novels in Your School Library recently, a review I'd only ever seen the first page of previously.  Written by Rebecca Oxley, it's an extended, scholarly take on the book, satisfyingly cogent in both it's praise and it's criticism.  While I must concede that she's got me on my relatively small amount of attention paid to manga and to dealing with challenges to graphic novels in libraries, she also said "Karp is cognizant of diversity throughout the selected works, supporting representation of multiple racial, ethnic, disability, gender, and sexual orientation groups and identities. . . His lessons of how to read, make, and evaluate GN not only legitimize them as invaluable tools, but they teach a new generation of stakeholders that the ability to negotiate within this esteemed art form is itself an emerging twenty-first-century skill."
     Though my book was written only a relatively short time ago, we're are now living in a profoundly different era when it comes to diversity and gender identity.  I'm very happy to know that my messages in those areas remain relevant and useful today, but I'll also say that, having gone back through my book after a number of years, it's bracing just how much is in there that I've completely forgotten about.  There's an assumption, perhaps, that having constructed a book from within your own mind, it sticks with you always.  But I found rereading the book like having a conversation with another man, my younger self, who retains ideas I've long since assimilated into my practice and thus given little thought to.  It's somewhat alarming to find out that my younger self still has plenty to teach me.