Based on a true conversation I had at work! Names and likenesses have been changed. I don't know why I drew "Travis" to look like Tom Perez of the DNC, but that's how it panned out. Also, I don't know why that ambulance driver just keeps steadily getting fatter and fatter as the comic strip progresses.
People say that as a liberal, I have a duty to stay in a swing state. If I move to a blue state like Massachusetts, I'll just be contributing to assholes being elected to office despite the majority of the American public voting against them. "Stay in Florida!" they say, "You have to stay in Florida! We need more Democrats in Florida! You can't just keep migrating to the cities!"
But I want to move back to the blue states, the states where good people live. If you voted for Trump or just didn't vote because you weren't "inspired" by either candidate or Hillary being boring was just as large a sin as Trump's fascism.... you are not a good person. You are a bad person. I don't want to live around bad people. I'm done. So done. I'm done trying to feel sorry for the "disaffected white male" as the disaffected white males crow in my face over Trump's win, wave their slave flags, and accuse me of being a terrorist because I believe in man-made climate change, rational gun control, and the rights of all Americans, documented and undocumented, to live without fear.
I am so tired. I am done.
I am moving back to Massachusetts. It is a state full of good people. It is blue. It is indigo. It is rational. It is where I wish to move.
And in celebration of this fact, I have written a cartoon. It is sort of a graphic novel interpretation of MT Anderson's novel "Thirsty." An interpretation of the first few paragraphs, at any rate. I have couched it in a "Paramedic Adventures" cartoon because why not?
"Thirsty" is a very Massachusetts story.
What do you want to bet that a newspaper will be willing to publish this cartoon? I'd say one in a bajillion.
I have nothing really to say. I can only rant. So I have couched my rant in the form of a "Paramedic Adventures" cartoon in order to make it more palatable.
Next page, showing Saladin honoring the memory of the dead Israeli soldier who died protecting him from a bullet. Notice my copping-out on the Hebrew on the gravestones in the first panel.
Don't know why I adapted Max Brooks' story to comic book form. My mother didn't like it. Max Brooks didn't like it, or at least didn't respond when I sent him the comic book.
Still, I am thinking of starting another website called "Paramedic Adventures." It's stories about my life now as a paramedic. Here are a few samples.
And here Saladin lays a photo with some flowers at a Jewish grave. I rather like older Saladin in the first panel... makes a nice contrast to young-and-stupid Saladin in the flashback.
As any regular reader may have noticed (which is to say, NOBODY) I haven't updated this blog in months. The reason for this is that I've been absolutely crazy with work. Seriously, between Paramedic school, two jobs and the care of an autistic toddler I just have no free time. I can't even sleep.
It's odd when you're really busy... life seems a lot slower. It's the opposite of suddenly looking up and seeing that it's already August when you thought it was just May. Here it's having a shift with an ambulance company and feeling that it's been forever since you last had a shift even though it's only been a week. So many events have passed that events in the recent past seem like events in the distant past.
Because of this I'm just going to re-post an entry I wrote about Michelle Malkin.
The "O'Reilly" in that interview is Bill O'Reilly. So yes, Malkin is so bad that she makes BILL O'REILLY the good guy in an interview. Malkin's hatred towards children from other countries is boundless. Listen to some of the choice words she had to say about children who had risked death, sickness, rape, and violence across harsh desert landscapes just to escape cartel atrocities in Mexico.
Aaaah, nice big splash panel. Easy to draw... usually. This was awful, however. Perspective was hard to capture. Also I had to figure out exactly how shadows would fall from the flames of a burning truck. Still, I think it ended up not looking too ridiculous. I managed to make the tree in the lower left-hand corner look faintly realistic with the way the shadows fell. This page served its purpose.
Lately I've been thinking a lot about autism. My son has autistic tendencies. My country has gone wild in terms of avoiding autism. False information about vaccines causing autism has spread like wildfire. This is completely false. Not only has the initial report showing a causal relationship between autism and vaccines been completely disproved, but the results have caused massive tragedy. It has also caused a large measles epidemic in the US, the largest in decades, to suddenly come roaring back with a vengeance.
A lot of families who choose not to vaccinate children are, with some justice, demonized. Many children, due to immunodeficiency diseases or being born with HIV or having chemotherapy, cannot have vaccinations. These sick children depend on herd immunity to defend themselves from infectious diseases. It's tricky, and doctors only hope that not enough children remain unvaccinated to reach a tipping point where herd immunity cannot protect them any longer. When perfectly healthy children are not immunized and join the sick children on the herd immunity band wagon, it's like Mitt Romney going on welfare. That money's not for you! It's for people who need it! You can survive without welfare! Likewise, herd immunity should not be the only defense between health children and preventable diseases. If your child is healthy, get that child vaccinated. Only children whose immune systems genuinely cannot withstand a vaccine should be allowed to use the herd immunity safety net.
The anti-vaccination movement is dumb, dangerous, and self-centered to its core. In its defense, however, autism is a scary disease. Even children with mild autism need to lead lives with some limits. Children with severe autism are such nightmares that there are cases where even the most loving mothers try to kill their autistic offspring. It is understandable why even measles, pertussis, and diphtheria are not enough to convince some parents to risk autism by vaccinating their children.
Except, of course, that there is no such thing as a link between autism and vaccinations.
Except, of course, that there are equally high rates of autism among unvaccinated children as vaccinated children.
Except, of course, that the link between vaccines and autism has been disproved for DECADES! And this information is common knowledge.
And, of course, human tendencies involve people doubling down on abusive, wrong, hurtful policies rather than apologizing and changing their minds. Hell, just look at the Republican party.
So why are autism rates rising? I don't know. I can't say. It may be pollution. There are links. It may be rising maternal obesity. There are also links in that department. You don't want your kid to have autism? Move to the mountains and lay off donuts, not vaccines. Hell, that's just good advice for anyone. When is air pollution and obesity ever good?
My own personal theory is that autism may have a slight rise due to pollution, maternal obesity, subtle effects involving genetics combined with the stresses of modern life or diseases at an early age. Most of the numbers have been rising, however, because diagnosis of autism has become more refined. Boys who were previously classified as "different," "odd," "quiet," or "just the way he is" are now being put on the autism spectrum. And yes, autism has now been redefined as a spectrum instead of as a cut-and-dried disorder like schizophrenia. No longer are autistic children just the poor souls in institutions screaming and crying and biting their parents in between long periods of just staring robotically into space. Children who are verbal, are walking, are toilet trained and are in school can now also be diagnosed with autism. No longer can the self-reassuring excuse of "Oh, Joey is a little quiet but he's not AUTISTIC! He can talk! He's just... stoic," be used. This was the common excuse during the 1940s when the modern term of "autism" for previously differentiated, scattered childhood neurological disorders first came into use in the US.
Back in the 20th century only severely autistic children were diagnosed. Mildly autistic individuals flew under the radar. Want proof? Look at that favorite Western storybook stereotype: The Mad Scientist.
And let's not forget the companion Western stereotype to the Mad Scientist: the asexual, weird Math Geek.
In fact, the character of the Highly Intelligent Emotionally Weird Person has been a pillar of books, movies, and TV shows for decades.
But how on Earth did these stereotypes come about? Studies show that non-autistic individuals with high IQs actually have better social skills than average and are more successful to boot. So where did this stereotype of the awkward, scary-intelligent nerd come from?
Simple. This stereotype arose from the undiagnosed cases of mild autism that people had... and doctors did not yet understand back in the twentieth century. Like mildly autistic individuals (80% of whom are male), the Mad Scientist and the Math Geek were always men. Like mildly autistic individuals, the Mad Scientist and the Math Geek tended towards social awkwardness and obliviousness... especially in matters involving sex. Indeed some characters fitting the "nerd" stereotype practically hit all the checks in the "Is Your Child Autistic" checklist.
So are autistic rates rising? Maybe slightly. After all, while vaccines are innocent pollution is pretty rife. Stress levels are high. Media is encouraging a shorter and shorter attention span among children. These are all constant stressers which, combined with a genetic vulnerability, can cause autism spectrum disorder. But really autistic people have always been with us. They've been the scientists. They've been the quiet kids with the math skills. They've been the skinny four-eyes who went to the dances alone while the jocks tormented them. They have been the chess geniuses. They have always been here, and they have never been unusual.
Awesome dead zombie in the first panel there! I really have to pat myself on the back.
Notice that the dead zombie is wearing an "Anthrax" shirt. Is it the same guy from earlier? He seems to have lost a bit of weight but hey, he's been sick. Plus he's just had all his flesh burnt off him in the car blaze.
Meanwhile that tank in the background remains far too big to be considered realistic. Plus the Hebrew in the first panel is probably grotesquely incorrect.
Never mind. Back to my attempt to write an essay that will be accepted by the "lives" section in the "New York Times Magazine."
"No, no, don't worry man... I'm all right."
It was an unimportant phrase, uttered by a male voice with an American accent. The voice was quite ordinary, fluent and Midwestern with maybe a hint of Georgia. Nevertheless, when I heard the voice, I could not believe my ears.
I was in a rusty Russian-made van, a "meeker," in the middle of the snowy Gobi desert. I was wedged in a seat, tightly sandwiched between the frigid glass of the window and a middle-aged Mongolian herder traveling with a bag full of phlegmatic, live goat. Though I was miserable and freezing I had the best seat in the van compared to where others were sitting. People sat on the floors. People sat on each other's laps. People even sat on the goat. The goat was phlegmatic about it.
Outside a recent snow storm combined with a temperature plunge to around 22 degrees had turned all the exterior world white. A white unbroken ground met the white sky making the whole world eerily blank. It was disorienting, even nauseating, to travel through a world where the horizon was invisible between two white places. Only the occasional snow-covered outhouse passing by the window indicated that the ground still existed.
Inside the van were silent Mongolians packed tighter than sardines and grimly enduring the bumpy ride from the tiny town of Dundgovi to the capital city of Ulaan Baatar. Occasionally someone vomited. Or smoked. Or passed around a bottle of bleach-flavored "Haraa" vodka and vomited again. There was little chatter. Mongolians aren't talkative. And yet, among the occasional discontented mutterings in Mongolian I had just heard a young man say a phrase in perfect American English. "No, no don't worry man... I'm all right."
As a Peace Corps volunteer I had been stranded for three months in my tiny Gobi village of Gurvansaikhan. While my Mongolian language skills had done nothing but improve immensely I nevertheless longed to hear the wide, flat, homey cadences of an American voice. I went to bed every night with my brain stinging, as if each Mongolian phrase were stripping a small length of skin off my cerebrum leaving nothing but vulnerable tender flesh underneath. Hearing a sudden burst of American English after a three-month drought was like having my brain suddenly immersed in warm bath water. It was wonderful.
The only problem was that I didn't know who had spoken. Poking my head up over the seats I saw only Mongolian faces. No telltale stubbly American head was sticking up out of the crowd. No pasty, large, Western visages were grinning among the throng of Central-Asian stoicism. I was at a loss as to who had just spoken.
My mind, stupidly, decided to recall an article I had read a few years earlier. The article was written by a woman describing her first symptoms of schizophrenia. "Have you ever had the feeling that someone has just shouted your name and you turn around to find no one there? It's rather like that." Oh Lord, this was it for me. I was becoming a schizophrenic. Forget any future in foreign relations. I was now doomed to wander homeless around city streets, smelling of beer and piss and screaming for the voices to stop. There was no other explanation.
Whatever mysterious American voices I had been hearing had stopped, however, when the van braked by a small village for a milk-tea-and-dumpling break. I got up and shuffled off the bus with the rest of the crowd. As I walked towards the small "guanz" (really just a humble woolen yurt filled with families eager to feed bus passengers for a small fee), I heard the mysterious voice again.
"Hey. You Peace Corps?"
I turned around. Again, I saw no one who could possibly be speaking to me. People were wandering towards the dumpling tents as cafe owners hallooed "Buuz baina! Buuz baine! Banshtai tseh baina!" ("I have dumplings! I have dumplings! I have dumpling tea!") As I turned back one sullen young man nearby broke into a smile and said "Hey, you gotta be Peace Corps! They only have two people here and I've already met the other guy."
"Oh hi," I said, "I'm sorry, I didn't know you... uh, well, I was..."
"Yeah, I know," the young man said. He smiled wryly, a very American gesture that clashed strangely with his strongly Mongolian features. "I've got a 'local face.' Just got here last week." He held out his hand for a fist bump. "I'm Dan."
"Phoebe," I bumped his fist, "Man, I don't think I've spoken to another American for months now. What brings you out here?"
"Research, sort of." Dan shrugged, "I'm thinking about riding a camel from Russia to China and then selling the article to 'National Geographic.'" He looked around a bit. "Hey, do you think I'd have enough time to buy some cigarettes? I haven't had one in three days and I'm kind of dying."
"Sure," I said, "Go to any one of the yurts and ask for 'Tamhi.'"
"Thanks, you're awesome." And with that the savior of my sanity turned and sauntered off into the snowy whiteness.
Thank you for reading my essay. Here is an extra cartoon as a reward. It's based on something that actually happened during ride time.
Hello, hello! As a current expatriate and former English teacher living in Asia I ask everybody who appreciates good webcartoons, excellent writing and fantastic artwork to give my site a bit of latitude as they check out the work on display :-)
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