On the cover of the New Yorker this week is a caricature of Barack and Michelle Obama in the Oval Office which depicts him in Indonesian Muslim garb and her in Marxist guerrilla chic toting an AK 47. On the wall over the fireplace hangs a painting of Osama Bin Laden, and in the fireplace itself burns an American flag. If the New Yorker had placed Raúl Castro's picture over the mantel instead of Osama's or found some other way to insert him in the scene (perhaps trying to insert Obama), the cartoon would have been a graphic condensation of my own thought on the Manchurian couple. Of course, we know that artist Barry Blitt intended the cartoon as a lampoon of people like me, that is, clear-thinking people. But his efforts backfired because he got too close to the truth and violated the #1 rule at the New Yorker: "Cartoons Must Not Be Funny."
The cartoon has been denounced by both the Obama and McCain camps. It would also have been denounced by Val Prieto at another time for its depiction of flag burning, but the well-known yankófilo is currently involved in his own controversy concerning Babalú's desecration of the Cuban flag, which necessitated that he maintain a prudent silence on the issue. Instead, water carrier Alberto de la Cruz copied a snippet from a Politico commentary on the cartoon, and the shameless George Moneo, who had published Sarmiento's desecration of the Cuban flag, provided another snippet. Cruz's take was that the liberals are their own worst enemies, which observation will also apply very well to the Babalunians themselves.
Does the depiction in art of a flag burning constitute a desecration of the flag? If the flag itself were on fire, singed or otherwise mutilated, then the answer would be yes. In Blitt's cartoon, however, the Stars and Stripes sits phoenix-like upon the flames, untouched by them. This could be interpreted as a refutation of flag-burning as well.
There is no ambiguity, however, about Sarmiento's desecration of the Cuban flag, or Babalú's enthusiastic endorsement of it as some kind of metaphor for our present reality. Sarmiento has sliced the star on the Cuban flag in two and serrated the blue stripes to resemble ocean waves; the half of the star that remains on the red triangle now looks like two severed legs and the other half cast adrift on the blue "waves" like a boat. If Blitt had altered the elements of the American flag, emptied the field of stars and replaced them with a swastika, or kept the stars but changed the blue field to black, or, as Marc Másferrer suggested in the deleted Babalú thread, enclosed the stars in barbed wire, Blitt's depiction of the American flag would be as offensive as Sarmiento's. In Blitt's cartoon, the layout of the U.S. flag is unaltered; in Sarmiento's it is reconfigured in such a manner as to suggest that Cuban refugees have turned their backs on their flag by fleeing from the Castro tyranny, confounding the tyranny with our country. Sarmiento, a cartoonist for a Communist publication in Cuba, no doubt wished to convey the impression that exiles had repudiated their country by fleeing the tyranny. Such a message would be entirely consonant with the regime's own propaganda. In endorsing both the desecration of our flag and the message of the cartoon, Babalú has not only committed a crime of lesè-majesté but sided with the oppressors of our country in condemning the exile community for following the example of Martí and Maceo.
Babalú's obstinate refusal to disassociate itself from Sarmiento's Castroite cartoon, its "unpublishing" of critical comments about the desecration but wilful refusal to "unpublish" the desecration itself, shows that it shares the totalitarian mindset of its putative enemies and their contempt for our national symbols as well.