Sunday, July 23, 2006

Shadows of the Past....

Back in summer of 2004, I was living with my girlfriend (now fiancee) Laura in Mt. Pleasant, preparing for our last year of college at CMU. At the time I was holding a few jobs, one of which was staff cartoonist for Central Michigan Life, CMU's school paper, a gig I maintained for my full 3 1/2 years there. Generally, the summer edition of CMU was weaker than the yearly edition: not as much big news to report, minimal student activity and we only published once a week rather than three days a week during the school year. So coming up with material for my editorial cartoon, WASTE PRODUCTS OF A WARPED VISION, got really tricky considering how little was actually happening on campus. But then the night of June 25th rolled around, and suddenly I found my editorial inkwell filled to the lip.

A guy named Damarcus Graham was set upon by a mob of people outside a Mt. Pleasant bar and breaten unconcious. Not surprisingly, interviews from the police would result in tight-lipped witnesses claiming ignorance to the whole situation. Also not surprising was the death of Graham three weeks later, having never regained conciousness from the beating.

Despite the lack of witness testimony, two facts were made immediately apparant in the case: there was no shortage of witnesses that night, and CMU football players, historically the most revered and protected group on campus, were involved in the attack.

At CMLife, as my editors and staff writers scrambled to hammer out stories about Graham's beating, I sat at my drawing table at home, creating my own response to those responsible for the attack. What follows is four of my editorial cartoons that were published in the pages of CMLife around the time of the case.

The last cartoon was actually based on an unrelated incident, but was intended to show a related string of occurances at CMU at the time. Before the Graham case, a kid named Jacon Showalter was attacked in the street outside a CMU frat house and horribly beaten. This went to trial as well, but the assailant regretfully got aquitted. Then after the Graham case, two guys in an apartment building were beaten outside their door while neighbors kept their doors locked and did nothing to help. This case is what prompted me to make the resulting cartoon.

I'd just gotten fed up with the thug mentality that ran rampant at CMU, and moreso with those responsible who were being covered for and those in positions of authority to do something about it sitting on their hands and doing nothing. So I lashed out the only way I knew how: through my cartoons. Understandably, I pissed off some people, either those who were friends with the accused (and presumably, the accused as well) or those in charge whom I felt were as responsible as the players whose scholarships and team positions they sought to protect. But in editorial cartooning, pissing people off is the real payoff. We seek to get the bad guys by making them look stupid and crooked in print. So I was as satisfied to have done my part as I imagine the guilty were to have seen me graduate the following Christmas of 2004, relieved of my editorial cartooning duties which made them look so bad for so long.

The reason I bring this all up now, two years later, is because on July 19th 2006 the Damarcus Graham case came to a close. Many of the football players involved in the beating have earned themselves sizeable jail sentences. But two of them, by all accounts those most directly involved, pleaded no contest to a lesser charge and will consequently receive much, much weaker sentences than they deserve for their actions. A recent CMLife photo shows them leaving the courtroom all grins and elation, convinced of their success and planning to celebrate. Celebrate a murder.

So, being a graduate two years out the door and no longer having CMLife as my soapbox, I feel powerless to make my voice heard as per the injustices that still surround this case. So instead I dig up my spent ammo shells of past battles and display them here, to show that though I'm no longer in the fight, I still know a just cause when I see one....

1 comment:

Doc Shaner said...

Never saw the last one, I like it. Yeah this is all just a little...out of hand. I can guarantee this week's CMlife will be all about it, including my cartoon. I'm still nearly speechless about it, just plain ridiculous.

And yeah, summer cartoons are tricky. And at times, cartoons dealing with this topic specifically are a little hard to run with. That one I did last fall got a whole handful of people breathing fire my way. Either way, yeah, frustrating.