Though I am not a fan of Garry Trudeau’s politics, I appreciate his long running comic strip Doonesbury as clever (mostly) and fair comment on political-social–cultural aspects of the country. Occasionally I am somewhat offended, but I can give as well as I can take in that regard and there is no way I would give up the near absolute freedom of speech we have. As a matter of fact, I believe freedom of speech tends to make it possible for one’s opponent to shoot themselves in the foot occasionally. Thus, to my fellow ideologues, I have the same answer as I do about guns. Don’t ban expression; just be careful when using it.
This week’s Doonesbury theme portrays a fictional Mitt Romney proselytizing in France for the Mormon Church during his youth. It suggests that Romney chose missionary work to dodge the draft during the Vietnam War. It also features a somewhat oafish Frenchman as a foil to the depicted earnest and somewhat hypocritical youthful Romney. So far, its targets are fair game. Our jurisprudence assumes, as my fifth grade teacher would have put it, if one is big and ugly enough to get into national politics, he needs a thick hide.
I suppose that one could argue either way that Trudeau is attacking or at least ridiculing the Mormon Church. If so, the left will doubtless get their yuks – ridiculing religious beliefs is acceptable in that bubble. Some of the right will be outraged. Neither group will be swayed. Many in the center; that is, the independents, may well be.
It is well documented that in the 1960 election, John F. Kennedy and his campaign rightly believed that Americans feared religious bigotry more than they feared that the Roman Catholic JFK would be a pawn of the Pope. Kennedy welcomed, and in some cases deliberately fostered airing the question of whether his faith disqualified him from being President. When it was brought up, it was perceived as rude and bad form. The degree to which JFK’s strategy worked is open to question because of the narrow victory, but it certainly did not hurt.
Perhaps Mitt Romney received a gift from Garry Trudeau. I guess we’ll see.