|Herblock at his desk|
No, although all those problems sound familiar, the above conditions aren't describing today. The Democratic President was John Kennedy, the small country was Cuba, and the year was 1962. And, as is often the case, few captured those turbulent times better than political cartoonists. And, at the head of those cartoonists stood Herbert Lawrence Block, better known as Herblock, who during his 55 years at The Washington Post won 3 Pulitzer Prizes for his work.
His pointed commentary and art offer an opportunity to reflect on the history and culture of his times and our times - how much has changed and how much has remained the same.
After he died in 2001, Herblock's archives were turned over to the Library of Congress, which offers a constantly changing retrospective of his cartoons. The most recent exhibition featured drawings from 50 years ago.
As a cartoonist, Herblock preferred to let his drawings speak for themselves. "A cartoon does not tell everything about a story,"he once said. "It is not supposed to. No written piece tells everything either. As far as words are concerned, there is no safety in numbers. The test of written or drawn commentary is whether it gets an essential truth."
Here are 4 of Herblock's 1962 cartoons. You can judge for yourself how close he got to those important essential truths.
Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
If you don't believe editorial cartoonists have a lot of influence and power, you need only to check today's headlines. Here is a Washington Post article recounting the story of an Indian political cartoonist who has been jailed for criticizing political corruption. While chilling, the story also makes us appreciate that marvelous freedom of speech that we enjoy as Americans.