Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Or Is He the New LBJ?

I recently read the first volume of Jules Feiffer's collected Village Voice comic strips, from the 1950s and early 1960s. Reading ten years' worth of weekly strips in a few days probably wasn't the best idea, but I was still amazed at how well Feiffer's early work has aged. Not just the stuff about relationships, but the stuff about politics still works. I guess that's not surprising, since relationships and politics haven't changed much in fifty years.

Here's the text from a 1965 strip, during Lyndon Baines Johnson's second bloody term. A radio announcer is reading the news:
And now the latest from overseas.

Fighting continues tonight in New York's Harlem. The government of the United States has filed a strong protest with the government of Ghana claiming that it acted illegally in dispatching two thousand Marines to protect the Hotel Theresa and other strategic points in the community.

In the meantime the government of Israel has announced plans to drop one thousand paratroops into the boroughs of Brooklyn and Bronx to protect houses of worship.

In further developments, French paratroops have refused to withdraw their occupation of fifty French restaurants on the island of Manhattan until all personnel are evacuated.

President Johnson continues to insist that New York is an internal problem and that if foreign troops don't withdraw immediately, American troops will force them out --

Just as soon as they get back from Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Laos, the Congo, Guantanamo, and Santo Domingo.
Quite a few people have noticed how many wars The Only President We've Got is juggling right now; Feiffer's work is a reminder that we've been there before. Like Obama, LBJ inherited some of his wars, but put his own stamp on the old ones and started several new ones.