Monday, September 2, 1996

Week of 09/02/1996

Going back to the Dandelions…
A bit of nostalgia.. or is it deja vu?
- by David Matthews 2

I was going through some of the stuff I have in my office when I came across a book I haven’t seen in years!

The book is called "Tales Too Ticklish To Tell" and it essentially is the reprint of some of the "Bloom County" cartoons from 1987-88. Years before cartoonist Berke Breathed left the field to "Outland" and from there exited his favorite characters "Bill and Opus" to endless service as computer screen savers. There was Bill the Cat and Opus the penguin in the field with Stave Dallas and Milo and Binkley and all their friends going over the issues of the late 80’s from unions to the religious right to alien invaders.

And as I sat there leafing through the pages and laughing at the cartoons I began to realize something a bit startling- a lot of the issues that were big even ten years ago are still big today!

Think about it for a second.. is there too much of a difference between the "moral crusades" of the televangelists of the 80’s and today’s "social conservatives" like William Bennett and Pat Buchannan, aside from the moussed hair and the overabundant makeup? Or how about the arguments between replacement football players and replacement baseball players? Issues like smoking and drugs still bring headlines today. The media still gets bashed, as do politicians, and special interests. Gary Hart is no longer in the political scene, but Donna Rice is back in, only now she’s a religious lobbyist.

Of course, the one difference between then and now is that we don’t have Reagan’s "Evil Empire" anymore. The old Soviet Union came crashing down almost as fast as the Berlin Wall did. Instead of Gorbachov we have Yeltsin. And the big difference in Washington is that we have a Democratic President and a Republican Congress instead of vice-versa.

But the question is has anything REALLY changed in the past ten years? We still have to worry about AIDS, and drugs, and smoking. We still have to watch our language lest someone on a crusade will call us "insensitive." We still talk about violence as though it’s a disease and blame it on television and a lack of societal ethics. We haven’t overcome any of these obstacles, we’ve simply ignored them, or pretended they didn’t really exist. Or worse, we simply got tired of talking about them and moved on to something else we COULD solve.

If anything, we’ve lost some ground than from ten years ago. Concepts like job security are now more myth than reality. Optimistic "Baby Boomers" make way for realistic "Generation X Slackers." Awareness groups routinely tell us some sort of food is bad for us, and whatever is the alternative is even worse. Any minute now I expect someone to come forth with a survey that will tell me that breathing is hazardous to my health.

And maybe because we don’t have some "evil empire" to turn to that we’ve all of a sudden started to turn to ourselves as our own worst enemy. The "evil" doesn’t come in the form of an empire anymore, it’s now known as an industry- the tobacco industry, the alcohol industry, the "sex industry," the entertainment industry… If it makes us happy, makes us content, or satisfies a need it’s now an "evil industry" that must be regulated at least and banned if possible.

And through it all we lack the sense of humor that Berke Breathed used to make us laugh at ourselves and our silly crusades. Instead we have to make do with "Doonsbury" and "Dilbert" to poke fun at our reality. Good comics, but they are a poor substitute to some of the outlandish concepts "Bloom County" provided. After all, were else could you find a cockroach that whispered strange tidbits while people were sleeping? Or seeing what was hidden in people’s "anxiety closet?" And while today’s comics target only one facet of society, only "Bloom County" poked fun at ALL facets of society.

Maybe we need to get back to the dandelion patch and see things the way Bill the Cat and Opus saw things. Maybe we need to sit back and laugh at it all, because we sure as hell can use a good laugh..

.. At least until it’s proven to cause cancer. Then we’ll think about regulating it to death.

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