Thursday, May 31, 2012

Left Wing Patriot

Yes, I’ve been called Left-Wing. 

Progressive. Pacificist. A bleeding heart tree-hugger. 

That’s okay. I’m an artist. It’s expected of me. And it’s mostly true. 

After all, I was raised in a religious tradition that emphasized forgiveness, understanding, and the Golden Rule. On top of that, I was trained to be a healer, and once took a solemn Oath that said I would do my best not to harm other people.

So it is that I find myself in a most interesting position philosophically, when I am researching, creating, and marketing my recent series of military drawings. This very question came up not long ago, when a conscientious friend asked me to explain how I could, in good conscience, justify the "glorification of war" in my art. 

In response, I told him that I felt a strong desire to balance my usual peaceful tendencies with the need  to support the equally dedicated individuals who are sent out to fight on my behalf, who then return home broken and changed, and find that in return for their sacrifice, they are offered little or no safety net. As an artist and a healer, I felt I could do something to help. As a responsible citizen, I felt I had no other choice.

These fighting men and women, and the people who care for them, are the ones who appreciate my intimate pictures of warcraft. If I do my job well, they will want to share my pictures with others - to support not only my calling as an artist, but also the various Wounded Warrior organizations that receive a significant portion of the proceeds from these drawings. 

For the record, I have no beef with anyone who puts on a uniform and follows orders. In fact, I applaud them all for choosing, then earning a place along a most honorable career path, for whatever reasons or circumstances might compel them to serve. More important, I salute them for setting aside their personal rights and freedoms so that I can selfishly enjoy my own. And I do, without reservation or apology. But not without gratitude.

To create Uncommon Valor, Follow Me, and the honorary military drawings that will follow them, I have worked hard to put on the skin of Soldiers and Marines, as much as a civilian ever can, in order to offer an authentic visual experience for them. In the process I have opened doors that have been closed to me before, and have had the opportunity to enjoy meaningful conversations and positive relationships with people from across the political spectrum, many of whom I am now privileged to call my friends.

Yes, I sometimes poke fun at others with my drawings - the medical community in particular. I have earned my stripes in that world, and feel comfortable taking them on as an insider, though always in good fun. 

For the military, I choose to speak in their terms, as a matter of respect for their ethos, and their unquestionable personal sacrifice, in order to fulfill a need that is being largely ignored by our politicians and their corporate partners. As a citizen, I will continue to work politically to try and build a better, more tolerant society, for everyone's benefit. With my military drawings, I am working artistically to support the millions who were and are willing to give up their lives so that I can draw funny pictures for a living.

I see no contradiction in that. If my efforts are successful, I will profit enough to help even more of them.

One of the best experiences to come from this adventure occurred over a long dinner, in the company of a retired Marine major, decorated for wounds received in three wars. After several hours of discussion, sometimes animated, he finally said to me, "Son, you and I are definitely on opposite sides of the political fence. But it appears to me that we both have our elbows on that fence, and we're leaning toward one another."

To my mind, that's the only way We as a People are going to solve our problems, by making bold connections, and making ourselves understood through civil discourse. That discourse is only possible because of a select few who are willing to die in its defense.

I think that's worth a little glorification.


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