They euthanize horses, don’t they?


As Bill Murray said so wisely, in "What About Bob?":

There are two types of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don’t. My ex-wife loves him...

But I’m here to tell you about another dichotomy that may constitute a much greater cognitive divide:

  1. Really serious animal lovers.
  2. The rest of us.

Robert Ariail has been hearing today from some folks who love animals — horses, especially, I suppose — the way Bob Wiley’s life loved Neil Diamond. Maybe more so.

The category that consists of "the rest of us" is large and broad. I suspect it’s the majority, but I don’t know, and I’m certainly not going to claim that it is, much less imply that greater numbers have any moral significance, because I’ve noticed that members of the other group of people can get very indignant. I just know that this group of people includes Robert, and me, and lots of people who range all the way from folks who like animals just fine (which includes me, and probably Robert, although I don’t know, because I haven’t been interested enough to ask, which is probably proof positive that I’m not a member of that other group of people) to those who have outright hostility toward other life forms (include, quite often, other people).

I am often even fond of animals. I like dogs, in the aggregate. I don’t much like cats. I’m not actually hostile to cats; I’d just rather not be around them (and not just because I’m severely allergic to them). They just, for me, lack something that dogs have — let’s leave it at that.

Some of you may remember a column I wrote about a dog of which I was very fond. Some folks projected some of themselves onto that column, thinking that I, too, must be a really serious animal lover. But compared to the folks I mean when I say "really serious animal lovers," I definitely am not.

I do not consider this to be a moral failing on my part. I am not ashamed of it. I say this to draw a distinction between the way I may feel about myself with regard to other human beings. I frequently have occasion to chide, berate and even be ashamed of myself because I have failed to be insufficiently thoughtful of other people and their needs and wants and interests. But aside from feeling a little bad if I forget my dog’s dinner time until WAY late in the evening, I can’t say that I have such pangs with regard to animals. I just go ahead and feed him, and pat him on the head and say, "Sorry, boy," and leave it at that. This is of course facilitated by the fact that the dog forgives me COMPLETELY, which is one of the great things about dogs. Just try getting away with that with a cat, for instance.

I have also felt bad when I’ve lost my patience with my dog — hollering at him to "cut it out" on occasion when he scrabbles at the door with his claws. I feel bad about that because my wife tells me I should, so I do.

But that’s about it.

I don’t feel what one correspondent said I should feel about Robert’s cartoon today: "Shame, shame, shame." In fact, I was puzzled at the assertion.

I’ve had a busy day today. I didn’t see that message until this afternoon, but it immediately reminded me of something that Robert had said to me this morning as I was on my way into a meeting with a candidate: He said some folks were really getting on him about today’s cartoon, the way they had about that Obama cartoon recently. I sort of said, "Uh-huh" or something, but as I went into my meeting I tried thinking about it, and tried to imagine what the widely misinterpreted Obama cartoon and this one had in common, and I couldn’t. I just came up dry.

Several hours later, when I saw the messages I got from a couple of readers — including our regular Randy — about it, I was bewildered again. I had to ask, "OK, I give up — what is it that upsets you about the cartoon?"

Then I went and looked at Robert’s Web site and saw the comments and figured it out — but I don’t think I would have guessed otherwise. Then I came back to my blog, and saw that Randy had confirmed the impression I had just gained: "The cartoon makes light of the horrific pain and suffering of an animal."

Personally, I don’t think it makes anything of "the horrific pain and suffering of an animal" one way or the other. It basically just takes the "beating a dead horse" expression, links it to an event in the news, and uses it to say — very accurately, I believe — that that’s what Hillary Clinton’s doing with her insistence upon continuing to pursue a nomination that is out of her reach.

And I know this for sure — the cartoon itself does not do any harm to any horse or any other animal. It doesn’t even hurt their feelings, on account of — and I hope nobody thinks I’m stereotyping animals or anything here — they don’t read the paper.

All it does is upset some people — some of them very, very nice people (perhaps I should even say MOST of them are very nice people) — because the death of this horse the other day was apparently an event that was freighted with strong emotions for them. At least, that’s what I gather. Since it was not a particularly emotional event for me, I can only surmise this. It’s not that I don’t think it’s sad for a horse to be put down; it is sad. But that’s about as far as it goes with me. It was not a shocking event. If you put horses that have been bred for speed rather than durability under that kind of stress, this can happen. And when it does happen, as the saying goes, they DO shoot horses. Sad, but not what you’d call shocking, and not something I’m going to be brooding about the next day.

I’ve seen things in the news since that race that are a LOT more awful and tragic. Take, for instance, all the dead and displaced in the country formerly known as Burma. But you know what? Nobody — not one person, that I’ve seen — has criticized Robert for "making light of the horrific pain and suffering" of as many as 100,000 Burmese under the dual tragedy of the cyclone and their oppressive, uncaring dictatorship. And yet, one could as easily have drawn that conclusion from this cartoon as the animal lovers did with this one.

And I reflect on this, and there seems to be something wrong here, and it’s not with Robert…


29 thoughts on “They euthanize horses, don’t they?

  1. penultimo mcfarland

    Yes, something is very wrong here. You wrote a book to show you don’t have a heart.
    The Obama cartoon was objectionable because it superimposed a stereotype on Obama. But Obama’s a human being who’s running for president. He should be able to defend himself. Muslims can take steps to transcend the suicide bomber stereotype. No harm done.
    The Burma cartoon didn’t make fun of the people’s suffering. It simply pointed out the tragedy that a stubborn dictatorship brings. Point well made. The Burmese may be helpless, but no one was laughing at them.
    The Democrat Derby cartoon, however, made light of what some would consider a noble effort from a relatively witless creature. The goofy look on the horse’s face and Hillary’s evil smile — all for the sake of overkill making a point that was already redundant when The State was published this morning — was inexcusable.
    If you can’t see the difference, you need to spend less time reading and more time living. You might grow a heart after all.

  2. Brad Warthen

    The donkey cartoon did not “make light” of anything one iota more than the Burma one did. Not in any way, shape or form.
    I’d be interested in hearing a logical argument to the contrary, but it’s a highly dubious proposition…

  3. penultimo mcfarland

    If you can’t see the difference, Mr. Warthen, no further logical argument to the contrary would convince you, either.
    “Delegate math” bandaging broken ankles is just way beyond the pale for a family newspaper. Sorry you can’t see that.

  4. Doug Ross

    I was trying to envision a human equivalent of the horse cartoon.
    How about Hillary Clinton sitting astride Strom Thurmond’s corpse, performing CPR, and saying “Listen, South Carolina, if I can win this nomination, I can do ANYTHING!”… and maybe a little smile on Strom’s face. You think that might get a few people riled up? Would it be because Strom was a human? or because it was just in bad taste?
    Note: I recently purchased the collected magazine run for National Lampoon all on one DVD. The DVD’s got a takeoff on their famous “Buy This Magazine Or We Shoot This Dog” cover with the gun aimed at a dog’s head. There are plenty of what might be considered objectionable cartoons concerning animals (the frog with no legs in a little box with wheels staring at a patron of a restaurant eating frogs legs comes to mind). I guess the difference is the context. I EXPECT National Lampoon to cross the line of good taste. Robert’s cartoon was out of character for a person who seems like a pretty decent guy.
    They say that comedy is tragedy plus time. In this case, I think not enough time had past to make this cartoon funny. I’d suggest Robert stay away from the Carolina Cup for awhile…

  5. Brad Warthen

    The irony here is that Robert is in pretty well with the horsey set, I believe.

  6. Randy E

    Doug nailed it. It was not something I expected from Mr. Arial. He seems like a sensitive and decent man. His ability to synthesize different events into one is simply amazing.
    mcfarland and I are probably polar opposites on most issues but I completely concur in this case. The Burma cartoon was strong commentary on a horrifically negligent government. Including the Burmese people who suffered was a necessity to draw out the moral of the story. The use of Eight Belles was not essential to drawing a critique of Hillary. Contrarily, if Mr. Arial was critiquing the abuse of animals in some context, the use of the horse would be directly germane. Hence, highlighting this horrific injury, in which it is the pain and suffering of having bones protruding after snapping is more the issue than the euthanasia, seems superficial.

  7. Silence Dogood

    “Nobody — not one person, that I’ve seen — has criticized Robert for “making light of the horrific pain and suffering” of as many as 100,000 Burmese under the dual tragedy of the cyclone and their oppressive, uncaring dictatorship. And yet, one could as easily have drawn that conclusion from this cartoon as the animal lovers did with this one.”
    Actually Brad I made notice of a comment over at “Not Very Bright” just how inappropriate it would have been if Mr. Arial had used as a “joke” a cyclone named ‘Obama’ and had it ‘washing’ away all the Hillary Supporters. Furthermore, there is a significant difference and I don’t think one needs to be a member of PITA see it. The cartoon at the bottom here is obviously not ment to get lots’a laughs, it is a commentary on how tragic the situation is in Burma – that could have just as easily been done tastelessly.
    I failed to catch be the connection between the dead the horse and Hillary’s campaign other than a cutesy witticism over the unfortunate death of an animal.
    The cartoon at the bottom are all in reference to the event unfolding and there doesn’t seem to be an attempt at cutesy or humor.
    If you don’t think there was a way to do the above cartoon tastelessly on the same subject matter and vice-versa for the Obama and Hillary cartoons (which would have been just as tasteless no matter who the politico) you may actually be missing something for once. Which I know could seem odd to you becuase whenever anyone disagrees with your point of view they are portrayed as “not getting it” or being part of some subgroup of fanatics driven by something othe than you keen sense of logic. But maybe that might not be the case for once.

  8. Mike Cakora

    Phillip is correct, it is the Dem’s donkey using Eight Belles’ end. Robert Arial’s cartoon is superb because of all it implied in its depiction of Hillary’s energetic use of the crop.
    Robert would have probably gotten less criticism had he had Hillary aboard the corpse of Strom Thurmond. What you and he and other adults with a healthy outlook on life don’t appreciate is the intensity of those on the far-out fringe the animal rights community, the PETA-plus crowd such as ALF, a domestic terrorist group.
    How serious are these folks? No longer mostly harmless. For much of the past thirty years they’ve mainly just damaged property, released lab animals, destroyed years of research, and occasionally vandalized the homes, cars, and other property of animal researchers.
    With the turn of the century they’ve been getting a little more aggressive, stooping even to grave-robbing to make their point and save the guinea pigs.
    There’s certainly a range of intensity regarding animal rights, ranging from folks like me who eat meat and enjoy the company of and interaction with pets to vegans who abhor the “murder” of any animal, human or otherwise, and take upon themselves the responsibility of ending such abuse.
    Reasonable folks abhor cruelty to animals, but most are unaware of the extreme beliefs and determination of those who take direct action.

  9. Doug Ross

    “becuase whenever anyone disagrees with your point of view they are portrayed as “not getting it” or being part of some subgroup of fanatics driven by something othe than you keen sense of logic.”
    There is some truth in that view of Brad’s perception of the world.
    If you think government is too large, it is because you are selfish. If you think taxes are too high, it is because you are childish. If you think illegal immigration is a big problem, it is because you are a racist.
    And if you find a cartoon that makes light of the recent death of a horse offensive, it is because you care more about animals than humans.

  10. randy e

    Cak, this is not a PETA issue. I ate a turkey burger tonight and cried when I authorized the eutheneza of my dying dog last fall. Sorry, this does not fit neatly into some tiresome labeling. As Doug stated, it was out of character and emotions over this are still raw. And, it doesn’t take a militant activist to find this offensive.
    I want to reemphasize that I find Mr. Arial to be a very decent man and an amazing editorial cartoonist.

  11. penultimo mcfarland

    Thank you, Mr. Ross and Mr. Dogood. You pegged Mr. Warthen’s attitude perfectly. And as often as not, he’s wrong.
    The strange thing here is that people who find this cartoon offensive are being labeled animal right activists, but that’s not me. I’ve never ridden a horse, either.
    This cartoon was brilliant, but it should have been deemed unusable, and not just because Eight Belles had a nobility no Clinton could so much as imagine.
    Had the wreck that killed Dale Earnhardt happened last Saturday, and had the metaphor here been changed to NASCAR rather than horse racing, Messrs. Warthen and Ariail might well be unemployed today, or at least writing apologies.
    It’s not an animal rights issue. It’s a question of human decency.

  12. Snead

    Thanks for the overgeneralization, Brad! I love being boxed into a group and labeled.
    Look, I’m not offended by this cartoon. You can publish anything you want. I find it tasteless, childish and incredibly unbecoming of my home state’s “flagship newspaper”.
    And I’m sorry, but that opinion doesn’t make me a vegan and card-carrying PETA member. So keep your labels off me. I know you’re only using them to justify your own narrow-minded opinions.
    This looks like one of your longest posts in some time. Bit dog howls, right?

  13. Bill C.

    The masses have spoken, the cartoon was in poor taste… period. Brad you can make excuses and back up Arial all you want, but in the end the cartoon is still there and still a poor attempt at humor using what most people consider a tragic event this past weekend.

  14. Jimmy

    Get a life folks……it’s a jackass, not a horse, those who can’t see the brilliance of the cartoons depiction of the Democrat Party being broken are wearing “blinders”(those are used on mules to keep them focused) hint; I just called them a Jackass….while here I must remind Brad it’s time to change the header on his blog counter…
    Counting up to Brad’s millionth page view

  15. Brad Warthen

    Thanks, Jimmy. I tried to change it earlier, and the whole blog went haywire. Someone else set that up for me, and inadvertently (I hope, anyway) left booby traps in the coding, and this booby doesn’t know how to avoid them. I’ll have to do that thing that I hate to do — ask directions — in order to fix it.

    And yeah, it’s a donkey.

    Here’s something interesting — I’m criticized for writing a long post, and for resorting to simplistic, extreme labels. The charges contradict each other.

    To the first, I’ll say, yeah, compared to a lot of posts around it — but not compared to posts when I go into my "inviting you behind the scenes of the editorial department mode." I take that role pretty seriously, and therefore go on a bit longer. With Robert’s cartoons, there’s also the standard "picture-to-1,000-words" ratio to contend with. Here’s an example of that.

    As for the other — I think y’all are projecting something onto me. No bumper-stickers here. I was way polite to y’all’s point of view.

    Oh, and Bill — the masses have not spoken. The masses don’t comment on this blog.

  16. notverybright

    It’s entirely possible to be both wordy and simplistic.
    And, if I may add, smugly dismissive, as usual, as you shift the subject from “Was the cartoon over the line and tasteless?” to “Do people who disagree with me love animals more than people?”

  17. Brad Warthen

    Do you mean "nice," as in, "That was sweet of you," or "nice" as in, "cool," "well done," or as one might say in the language that drives some on this blog crazy, "¡Que Linda!" or "¡Más fina!"…

  18. bud

    I guess anyone who’s willing to send young men and women to die and a completely illegal and immoral cause such as Iraq cannot understand how utterly tasteless the Arial cartoon is. Brad your moral compass just is not functioning properly. The Arial cartoon was cruel, tasteless and had no regard for the dignity of this noble animal who suffered a painful death.

  19. The 7-10: Anthony Palmer

    I think Arial would have been better off showing Hillary in a racecar with two flat tires saying “delegate math.” That would have allowed Arial to make the same point without creating any unnecessary controversy. Americans love their animals, and they don’t like people making a joke out of another animal’s misfortune.

  20. Bill C.

    Of the people who have responded, the masses are in the “tasteless cartoon” majority… I’ve only read a handful of comments defending the cartoon. You can twist this comment however you wish, but it was still a tasteless cartoon in my opinion.

  21. Randy E

    Brad, I am sorry to say I believe you are taking the “with us or against us” approach regardless of the validity of your position.
    You can’t really evaluate people’s sensibilities in this situation. If people are offended, they are offended.

  22. Brad Warthen

    What, you mean because of the "What About Bob?"/Neil Diamond thing — presenting the issue as a dichotomy of humanity? I just thought that was a fun way to get into the subject…

    But the fact is that there is a HUGE cognitive divide between those who are offended by the cartoon and those of us who have to be told WHY anyone would be offended, and it’s almost as great as the Neil Diamond split.

    Believe me, I run into it a LOT. There are two groups whose fury can exceed that of the proverbial woman scorned (and I’m NOT talking about Hillary here): Band parents, and animal lovers.

    It probably sounds like I’m babbling, but anyone who has worked in the newspaper business knows EXACTLY what I mean. Band parents — parents of kids on high school bands — are notorious for getting all over newspaper editors if they fail to make a huge, hairy deal about band competitions. They pour out all sorts of passionate, indignant arguments about the importance of band competitions, and how HARD the kids work, with the inevitable reference to all the ink the paper gives high school SPORTS, which of course is the emotional crux of the whole issue. And God help any editor who dares to try to point out that the prep sports get all that ink on account of the fact that somebody besides the jocks’ parents are interested…

    In fact, forget that I just typed that, because I don’t want the band parents coming after ME. I mean, I was just explaining how SOME misguided editors think; don’t think for a minute that I am anything like those uncaring jock-sniffers. (One of the wonderful things about having made the transition from news to editorial more than 14 years ago is that I put the whole band-parent thing behind me, you see.)

    Anyway, where was I — oh, yeah. I wanted to let you know that I’ve continued the discussion of the cartoon over on this post, headlined "The Chicago Tribune on beating dead horses."

  23. Brad Warthen

    Oops, before we go to the other post, I just noticed something. Bud says, “I guess anyone who’s willing to send young men and women to die and a completely illegal and immoral cause such as Iraq cannot understand how utterly tasteless the Arial cartoon is. Brad your moral compass just is not functioning properly…”
    And I’m the guy trying to marginalize people who disagree with me?

  24. penultimo mcfarland

    Yes, Mr. Warthen. Likening any group to band parents is like calling them Taliban or Al-Qaeda. “Marginalizing” is too kind a word for the process.
    Heck, you lumped all the people who disagreed with you on the cartoon into the “animal lovers” group, when no one’s predisposition toward animals was really relevant.
    Then you likened the people who disagreed with you to “band parents,” when you’re the parent in the situation. The editorial page is your baby, not ours.
    But when your baby misbehaves in public, we do have to put up with it.

  25. Ralph Hightower

    Bob Wiley’s life loves Neil Diamond? I think its wife.
    My wife and I are dog people. We have had many Beagles, most living to 14-17 years old, beginning shortly after marriage. I had several Beagles growing up as a kid in Bamberg. My parents had collies and pugs. My sister had cats.
    Rabbi Marc Gellman, a columnist for Newsweek, wrote a great letter to their veterinarian about the death of their dog Miles.
    I am not Jewish, but March Gellman writes articles to all that have a soul.
    Likewise, I saw the cartoon as Hillary “beating a dead horse” and didn’t think the cartoon related to Eight Belles, other than the venue of the Kentucky Derby. And yes, that was a donkey that Arial drew and not a horse.
    Barbaro captured our attention with his will to survive. I found out through Wikipedia, that Barbaro is related to Eight Belles.

  26. penultimo mcfarland

    So it’s not an animal-lover issue. At least one animal lover thinks the cartoon is OK. That’s good. The kind of stereotyping that hit the intellectual skids in the ’60s still doesn’t work.
    Thank you, Ralph.
    By the way, if you “saw the cartoon as Hillary beating a dead horse,” how could you be so sure “that was a donkey that Ariail drew”?
    Never mind the cartoon not being “related to Eight Belles,” when that horse broke both front ankles and the donkey is shown with both front ankles broken but bandaged by “delegate math.”
    And, pardon me, but what captured our attention about Barbaro was how something so physically superior could be so tragically fragile.

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