As I enjoy some time off, this week marks the 25 year milestone since officially beginning my role on July 7, 1997, as staff editorial cartoonist at The Hamilton Spectator. Previous to then my illustrations regularly appeared on a freelance basis in this paper as well as several other newspapers and magazines across Canada and the United States. I had been editorial cartoonist for the chain of Hamilton area community newspapers known as Brabant, and I got my first start as a published cartoonist as a student at The Fulcrum, while attending the University of Ottawa in the late 1980s and early 90s. Visitors here will know thousands of my cartoons can be mined in searches from this very website. Upon being hired 6000 editorial cartoons or so ago, the Internet was in its infancy, so while all of my cartoons many be found after 2000, ones before then have been added years after they originally appeared in print. Thoughts of putting together a print catalogue book going back several decades are always swirling in the background as a possibility of happening until they aren’t. So until then, folks will just have to settle for nostalgic MacKay cartoons from tablet glass through my vast archives instead of paperback. So many cartoons from the biggest characters from the past quarter century…
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday January 6, 2022
A year after Jan. 6 riot, Americans and Canadians agree U.S. democracy in peril: poll
One year after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, a majority of Americans and Canadians alike say democracy in the United States is under threat, a new poll suggests.
The poll, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute and released Thursday, also found stark differences in how the event is viewed by conservatives and liberals in both countries.
The divide is more severe in the U.S., where 68 per cent of respondents who voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 election disagree that the riots were an act of domestic terrorism — an opinion at odds with the FBI and other officials — while nearly three quarters still believe Trump won the election that he lost.
“There are only two (major) political parties in the U.S. … and this has become the narrative of one of those parties,” said Matthew Lebo, a political science professor at Western University who studies U.S. and Canadian politics.
“You cannot have a democracy with only one party that believes in democracy.”
Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the riots, which saw supporters of Trump violently storm the Capitol building and disrupt the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory the previous November. Seven people, including police officers, died during and after the siege.
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday September 11, 2021
The 20th anniversary of 9/11: no end in sight
A new and deadly era began when the planes sliced into the twin towers on the morning of 11 September 2001. That evening, the historian Tony Judt wrote that he had seen the 21st century begin. The nearly 3,000 lives stolen by al-Qaida were only a small part of the toll. The horror began a chain of events that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, including huge numbers of civilians abroad and many US military personnel. It is still unfolding.
If the killing of the plot’s mastermind Osama bin Laden a few months before the 10th anniversary perhaps let some hope that an end to that new era might be in sight, there can be no such false confidence at the 20th. The establishment of a Taliban government in Kabul, two decades after the US ousted the militants for harbouring Bin Laden, has underscored two things: that far from reasserting its global supremacy, the US looks more vulnerable today; and that the echoes of 9/11 are still reverberating across the region – but will not stay there.
Al-Qaida itself survives and others claim its mantle. In the west, the threat from Islamist terrorism endures – from 7/7 and the Madrid train bombings, to the attacks at Manchester Arena, the Berlin Christmas market and Vienna – though the nature of the threat has shifted, from a heavily financed, complex and internationally organised plot to more localised, less sophisticated attacks. This week, 20 men went on trial over the 2015 massacre at the Bataclan concert hall and other sites in Paris. Ken McCallum, MI5’s chief, said on Friday that the agency had prevented six “late stage” terrorist plots during the pandemic, and that with the Taliban’s triumph, “more risk progressively may flow our way”.
The determination to pursue a military solution fed the political problems, as history should have warned. (A Rand Corporation study of 248 terrorist groups worldwide suggested that only 7% were ended by military force.)
In Afghanistan, the refusal to accept a Taliban surrender paved the way for America’s longest war and ultimate acceptance of defeat. Islamic State arose from the ashes of the invasion of Iraq. Extraordinary renditions, torture, the atrocities of Abu Ghraib and the unwillingness to acknowledge or atone for civilian deaths at the hands of US forces or their allies all stoked the fire. These abuses and crimes were not anomalies but intrinsic to the war on terror. Men swept up in the aftermath are still held at Guantánamo Bay.
Around the world, basic rights were erased at home too. The US saw a massive expansion of presidential power; the veneration of secrecy; the destruction of norms; the normalisation of Islamophobia; the promotion of a narrative linking immigration and terrorism, breeding broader intolerance; and the encouragement of the belief that ordinary citizens were in a state of war. It is not hard to draw the line to the rise of Donald Trump and white supremacy, or rightwing populism elsewhere. In the US, far-right terror groups were behind most attacks last year; in the UK, police have said that the fastest growing terror threat is from the far right. The biggest perils to the US now appear not external but internal. The future of a divided and distrustful country looks increasingly precarious, its status in the world weakened.
Whatever many in the country once believed, American citizens cannot be isolated from the dangers of the outside world; trouble is not “always someplace else”. On 9/11, the country transitioned from a dream of unending tranquility at home to a nightmare of forever war. With the return of soldiers from Afghanistan, the US is more distanced from the enemy. But the conflict continues by other means, and without boots on the ground, drone strikes are more likely than ever to claim the lives of civilians as well as terrorist suspects. The US, and the west, cannot be safe at home while insecurity reigns abroad. (The Guardian)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday December 8, 2020
Canadians must never forget ‘the two Michaels’
If any Canadians still wonder why their country isn’t ready to become one of China’s best bosom buddies, this week should remind them.
As of Thursday, Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig will have suffered for two full years in Chinese jails where they were almost certainly locked up for political, rather than legal, reasons.
Just think back to Dec. 10, 2018 and consider all the things you’ve done, all the places you’ve been, all the people you’ve seen and all the freedoms you’ve savoured since then. Then remember the men who are now widely referred to as “the two Michaels.”
While both have had only restricted contact with the outside world, we know they’ve endured months of daily interrogations in deplorable, solitary confinement-like conditions where the lights were kept on 24 hours a day. And while for a time Spavor and Kovrig were at least allowed an occasional, brief visit from Canadian consular staff, the Chinese are now using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to make them even more unreachable — and alone.
That this constitutes cruel, inhumane treatment should go without saying. But it is also egregiously unjust and underlines the stark difference between Canada’s adherence to the rule of international law and China’s inclination to make up the rules that suit its fancy.
The Chinese incarcerated the two Michaels just days after Canada’s house arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, who is wanted on fraud charges in the United States. While Spavor and Kovrig languish in cramped cells, Meng is out on bail, living comfortably in Vancouver where she divides her time between her two mansions. While Spavor and Kovrig have been denied proper legal representation, Meng has access to the small army of lawyers she hired to fight her extradition to the U.S.
From the day of Meng’s arrest two years ago, the Canadian government clearly explained a legal agreement with the U.S. compelled it to take action against her. In contrast, while China has formally charged Spavor and Kovrig with espionage, its real motive for arresting them is different.
This is hostage diplomacy, plain and simple, a blatant attempt by a global superpower to force Canada to bow to its commands. The Chinese themselves basically confirmed this is the case in June. That’s when Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said it was “within the rule of law” for China to release Spavor and Kovrig — if Canada freed Meng first.
Of course, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was right not to buckle to the pressure on him to interfere with Canadian courts and free Meng. If you give in to a bully once, the bully will inevitably be back again to twist your arm into doing something else. And this is the same bully that has also arbitrarily blocked its imports of Canadian farm products, all while badgering Canada to allow China’s Huawei Technologies Co., equipment to be used in Canada’s 5G wireless networks.
China is a country that, because of its political power and economic prowess, Canada must engage. But its aggressive dealings with Canada, including sending over state agents to intimidate Canadian citizens who publicly criticize China, mean we should keep a wary distance — and keep it out of our 5G network.
Such a relationship should be reserved for a true friend. But a true friend wouldn’t have kept Spavor and Kovrig behind bars for two years. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday November 8, 2019
Western Order Reels on Berlin Wall Anniversary
The stage is set at the Brandenburg Gate, the dignitaries are assembling — but 30 years on, is there much cause to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall?
The iconic moment of 1989 crowned a year of revolution that toppled communist regimes across the Soviet bloc, marking the end of the Cold War and the start of a hopeful new era.
The global divisions caused by the 1991 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq stopped that in its tracks. Optimism quickly turned to cynicism, economic boom to bust, and electorates began to look for new answers.
Today, the western liberal order that prevailed in 1989 is crumbling. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is resurgent, communist China is the world’s second-biggest economy, and the U.S. under Donald Trump openly scorns multilateralism, belittles NATO and calls the European Union a foe.
But even as the west looks spent, it’s too early to administer the last rites.
The global climate emergency upends politics as we know it and represents a chance for the west to lead, even if Greta Thunberg complains it’s not enough. Europe is a green energy powerhouse. Environmental concerns top the EU’s agenda. Germany’s Green party is vying for first place in opinion polls.
A Green chancellor of Europe’s dominant country: Few could have imagined that in 1989. (Financial Post)
In 1989, a suggestion was drawn in my comic strip Alas & Alack that Donald Trump would buy the Berlin Wall. Interesting prophesy on how history would eventually play out with a future U.S. President and his penchant for walls and keeping people divided.
Ages ago, 30yrs exactly, Donald Trump even got a mention when I drew this wordy piece after the #BerlinWall fell, for my student paper @The_Fulcrum at the University of Ottawa. #ThrowbackThursday #BerlinWall30 pic.twitter.com/McMDz8cPwh
— Graeme MacKay (@mackaycartoons) November 7, 2019