THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE
What have we learned in the last 2 weeks, the last 2 months, and the last 5 years? That there are millions of Americans who either through intention, or, by tribal & party acquiescence would see America return to a time of forced child separations akin to what occurred to American Indians, the targeting of specific races and ethnicities for exclusion from work and immigration, and of course, redlining and jim crow.
What could have been learned from a 10 cent comic?
In 1955 Alfred Hassler and the "Fellowship of Reconciliation," an organization that championed non-violent action in support of racial equality internationally, and trained groups like the "Freedom Riders" domestically, published the comic book "Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Bus Boycott," to bring the message of social justice to young people. Either it did not work as well as they had hoped or the message did not stick.
In the days since the insurrection of January 6, 2021, a few "Never Trumpers," exiled republicans, moderate democrats, and several full-blown Trump sycophants have used the words of Dr. King to exhort us into believing that we can heal a political divide that has now been exposed to not be about taxation and deficits, the social safety net, an aggressive war footing, family & Christian values, or even law and order in support of "blue Iives." Instead, that pretense has been threadbare to reveal what many of us have always believed. It's about race. Trump has proven that none of the aforementioned issues were ever truly paramount to the Republican base. As soon as Trump arrived, they cast aside those values as quickly as they cast aside their American flags in favor of Trump flags. Trump supporters do not oppose the social safety net. They are opposed to racial and ethnic minorities utilizing the social safety net.
As much as I admire the people that took the time, effort, and mortal risk involved in bringing this comic to fruition, it pains me to admit that a comic (even one such as this, filled with revolutionary idealism) may not have been the appropriate format for his message. I appreciate the notion of meeting people where they are, but the baby boomers were a generation that was not ready to see overt racialized politics reflected in their pop culture.
Communications theorist Marshal McLuhan coined the phrase "The medium is the message." Meaning; that the broad constructs that surround content are just as capable of conveying a message as the content itself. And sometimes, may send an entirely different message from the content. Unfortunately, the "Archie Comics" era lead by titles like "Josie and the Pussycats" and "Jugghead", reduced Dr. King's message of racial and ethnic reconciliation through justice, to little more than his belief in non-violence by association.
Unfortunately, what has happened since the death of Dr. King is that people on the right have looked at his story, clipped the headline, and thrown away the paper. And now, to them, he is little more than a shallow Santa Clause figure with a simple co-opted message of non-violence that they can use against us whenever our moral outrage appears naughty.
For decades it has been one of the most pernicious movements of the right. The effort to defang Dr. King's real message. To set him apart from our rage in disapproval, and above our actions in judgment.
I believe that a 10¢ comic, or $3 comic can teach us plenty. In 2021! 1955 just wasn’t ready.
Read the comic if you have the chance. It's really good!