Toon’d in

April 26, 2021

While neither the pandemic nor conscientious efforts to overcome it are nothing to laugh at, two recent editorial cartoons humorously depict the twin challenges we all face.

The first, from mid-January – by cartoonist John Cole in The Times-Tribune of Scranton, PA – lampoons the vaccine distribution challenges. Cole borrows from Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes characters Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote in mid-chase just before the climax. The Road Runner, shown as a COVID-19 germ (green orb peppered with red pointy spikes) speeds toward what appears to be the darkened opening of a cave with “Distribution Glitches” painted above. Meanwhile, Wile E. Coyote remains in hot pursuit, dressed as a physician and straddling a rocket-powered syringe labeled “Vaccine” on the side of the barrel.

If you’re fans of or familiar with this cartoon duo, you know what likely happens next. The “COVID Runner” will zoom through the cave entrance and a nanosecond later Dr. Coyote will collide with what turns out to be a dark paint spot on the cave and explode.

The second, from mid-March – by cartoonist John Darkow in the Columbia Missourian – illustrates Dr. Fauci taking the family on a road trip in a mid-1950s era tail-finned station wagon with suitcases stacked atop the luggage rack. On the highway, the green sign overhead reads “Normal” in white letters with an arrow pointing forward. Meanwhile, all the kids (seemingly representing impatient and irascible American citizens) in the back seats repeatedly ask Dad Fauci that one question all parents dread on road trips: “Are we there yet?” To which Dad Fauci endlessly replies in exasperation, “No!”

We chuckle and chortle about these clever and witty observations, but they really serve as a condemnation for our pre-pubescent and adolescent behavior – particularly the second cartoon.

American citizens accurately are shown as churlish, selfish, short-sighted children with limited attention spans and a predilection to avoid, sidestep, skirt or even rebel against common sense recommendations and human decency. What an inconvenience it is to cover your mouth during a sneeze, wash your hands, wear masks, stay six feet apart or even stay home for a year. How dare the government and clinical authorities deny our right to roam, subvert our freedom to intermingle physically and party with others. Why don’t we have a pill, a powder, a spray or an app to take this away once and for all?

Are we prepared – or preparing – for the next pandemic? Not likely. We’re too obsessed with “returning to normal,” blinded by our tunnel vision.