I've just read about a controversy that has developed surrounding a recent cartoon strip or two by Berkeley Breathed. His "Opus" has long been a favorite of mine. Wonder why. But I admit that my regular comic strip reading has long ago fallen by the wayside. Now I feel compelled to monitor this one.
Seems the character Lola Granola is on another spiritual journey and this time is garbed in cloth, like the covering done by Muslim women. I read that at least 25 newspapers have refused to print the comic strip, including the Washington Post, even though the Post runs the syndication service that distributes Opus. Well now. Lola is dipping her toe into Islam and major newspapers are running scared that Muslims may be offended.
Opus only runs in the Houston Chronicle's Sunday newspaper, as far as I know. I don't even know if Breathed still does a daily strip. I know he retired in 1995 so that he could write children's books. He had a book published in 2003 and then returned to doing the Opus cartoons.
According to the article on Salon.com, The Washington Post ran the cartoon online but buried it. The article sourced Editor and Publisher as saying "some papers were concerned that the strips were sexually suggestive" which has to do with a conversation Lola and her boyfriend Steve have in today's version. I think that's just a petty excuse. I saw the cartoon and it's nothing. Nothing profane, obscene, bigoted, disrespectful.
Rarely do I have a reason to praise the Houston Chronicle. Today, though, is an exception. The newspaper ran the cartoon and I was proud to see it in the comics section, in its usual spot. For all I know, tomorrow there will be an editorial by those in charge chastising Breathed, but today it was there and they didn't succumb to all the politically correct ninnies.
I agree with Joan Walsh, at Salon.com, who said,"I thought the strip satirized the loopy American seekers who customize world religions for their own needs, not Islam. But either way, it's cowardice to shun the strip. And newspapers wonder why they're dying?" Well said.
Brings to mind the Hollywierd crowd and the Kaballah trend. Or Scientology.
The ironic part is that Berkeley is a self-proclaimed atheist. From an interview in Psychology Today "The interesting thing is that I have absolutely no neuroses. I have no mother issues, no issues of self-actualization, no sibling envy or weight issues. Although I'm an atheist, I don't fear death more than, say, sharing a room in a detox center with a sobbing Rush Limbaugh...This is why I'm returning to Opus. One of us needs to be a mess if this writing business is going to work."
Oh yeah, he's married to a psychologist.
Breathed lampoons everyone. Both genders, all political trends, religions, trends of the culture. It doesn't matter. Everything is on the table for his skewer and that is what makes his cartooning entertaining. Nothing is immune.
And now he has inadvertently pointed out the weakness in liberal totalitarianism. Those censoring the cartoon are cowardly hypocrites. Freedom of speech is not exclusively theirs.
Shame on them.