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Drugs to Death in a Political Cartoon: An Oversimplification?

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As the more stable counterpart to an inconsistent southern neighbor, the United States has always had a suspicious outlook towards Mexico. In recent years, the boost in illegal immigration, the unstable economies in both countries and the issues resulting from drug use and trade have added tension to the already strained relationship. Blame flows and lands on various subjects: each government, drug cartels, drug users, and more. In the October 2009 political cartoon posted by David Kurtzman¹ , various angles are used to portray the cartoonist’s opinion that blame should be limited to one party: the drug cartels. Through the use of color, stereotypes, and the pathos connected with images of death, the cartoonist blames the violent Latin American drug cartels for Mexico’s problems and spoils the legitimacy of the attempts of the Mexican government, as represented by the stiff piñata, to solve the drug issue. In the cartoon, the drug cartels are represented by the photo at the top, with a dark black shirt and a menacing face and stance.

The color scheme, as compared to the bright piñata and the white, light skulls, makes the drug cartels an image of havoc and danger. The sheer physical size of the figure also warps the responsibility of these cartels for the ruin of Mexico. The cartoon ignores the presence of the approximately 25 million people in the United States who are heavy drug users and it created a market for the products of the drug cartels (ex. Marijuana and Cocaine ), instead perhaps weaking the situation to act like the drug problem as a one-sided, clear, and violent issue². The pathos involved with this overblown portrayal uses the scare tactic; the audience’s fear of the dark colors and frightening male figure assist the cartoonist’s objective of pointing the finger at the drug cartels for the violence in Mexico. The color scheme and setup of the background for the cartoon are also key choices on the part of the cartoonist.

The landscape is bare with the exception of dead and gutted tree, two weak cacti, and the dry ground. Even the sky is grim; the clouds hanging over the cartel figure and the colors are hazy and smoky, as if rising from the dusty ground. The fruitlessness of the landscape and the obvious lack of rich natural resources taking place at the same time as the drug cartel’s blows of the piñata lend many negative undertones and associations to the drug cartel, affecting in Mexico’s issues. Young 3 With the dry landscape and the drug cartels identifies that the parallel does not necessarily imply causation. Kurtzman obviously placed the drug cartel figure may appear to be at fault for of the piñata figure and the environment of the political cartoon, in reality there is no evidence provided that places all blame on the cartels. Also, the blame on the drug cartels for the problems and violence in Mexico, distroyed

the power of the Mexican government to uphold the capability of the cartels. The irony identified with “Mexico,” is the piñata, is the most obvious effect of the Mexican government against the drug cartels. The piñata is tied to a tree. It just hangs there as if it cannot control its own actions or defenses. Its face is blank and that of a donkey, a dumb, frail animal seen in the face of the cartel figure. This void seems wrong due to the tiny skulls are pouring out of the figure, there is brutality, but no emotion was shown. The lack of a typical mask on the drug cartel figure’s face has spiteful overtones. The idea of the destruction is an easy pursuit for the cartels to further attempt to impress the audience to see the faults of the drug cartels in relationship to the oversight of the government in Mexico. The vacant gaze of the piñata is emulated by the blankness of the landscape. The dead, plant life and the dry earth are clearly detached from the hanging Mexico piñata, suggested that the government has no control over country at large.

In fact, Mexico’s president Felipe Calderón took the first step against the conern of drug violence that no other president has dared to take on in the past. He has cracked down on drug dealers by jailing them and allowing small masses of drugs in an effort to lower profits for the cartels. These efforts, while perhaps are not always effective, are the first attempts to fight back against the power of the cartels and Young 4 the violence that exploded as a result of the drug trade. Their conquest in this cartoon to a donkey with the pressure of being suspended and isolated in the air is a distortion of the truth. Yet, Mexico is blended in by various images in the cartoon. An overused Americanized symbol, the piñata puts down Mexican culture’s diversity and vitality. By depicting an entire diverse country as a helpless object, the cartoonist constructs ethos for himself by apparently being able to make large reflections about multiple issues, implying that he has a sound and depicts the grasp of the subject.

Similarly, The lack of resources and, perhaps, their misuse (one tree is used to string up Mexico itself) indicated that the Mexican government is unfit to stand up to the dominant drug cartel figure. The crude luster of the piñata lends further burden to that claim, by appearing as unhopeful in environment and next to the skulls and the cartel figure. Those skulls served to fit the Mexican population. The skulls have glowing halos around them, rendering them as saintly figures, rolling out of Mexico’s “belly” without ending. The cartoonist used pathos in portraying the skulls: the idea of death and the loss of one’s self are alarming and severe. The choice was to avert these issues and to focus on the failure of the government to stop a large group, is lowering the creditability of the government and the many nationwide problems that exist. It may be easier for a U.S. market, the original audience for this cartoon, to gain an opinion that avoids criticism due to drugs being sold by the cartels. It is also risky due to disconnections from Mexico to the United States and does not allow mutual stability and actions between them. There was no attempt to sense the error by the audience.

This figure of the drug cartels can be possibly confusing for an American audience. It was the media mania and public shock over steroid usage in baseball, intensified by the publication of the Mitchell Report, which a few baseball players have been exposed as foul, bullies with bats. As been accepted that American cultural truth take the actions of the drug cartels as the ones to blame for terrorism in Mexico. The use and maybe misuse, of pathos, ethos, and logical fallacies all assists the cartoonist in discrediting of some of the allowed validity on the part of the Mexican government in a strong attempt to abolish drug turf wars from the country. The cartoonist and the world must help in effort to begin to solve this international problem. But it is unknown when and if this will happen, but every little bit can help with understanding what is really going on with the war with these cartels.

Works Cited

¹Kurtzman, Daniel. “Mexican Piñata – Drug War Cartoon.” Political Humor: Jokes, Satires and Political Cartoons Web. 05 October 2009. http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/politicalcartoons/ig/Political-Cartoons/Mexican- Pinata.htm

²Drug use in the United States percentages from the Center for Disease Control Website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/FASTATS/druguse.htm Population of the US as of June 2008, from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Alfano, Christine L. and Alyssa J. O’Brien Envision: Writing and Researching Arguments. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2008. Print.

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