Author's Note: In the years since I wrote this satire, much of the original context has been lost, and judging by the emails I occasionally receive, the article makes me sound like a fascist. Please keep in mind that when this article was published, there was an ongoing debate about the possibility of amending the United States Constitution to prohibit gay marriage; this article reflected my opinion on that idea.

COLUMN

Jail Bill Watterson

Amal Dorai

I really liked “Calvin and Hobbes.” In fact, I’m pretty sure most of you did, too. It was like “The Simpsons”; not just funny, but warm and insightful, taking us back to the carefree days of childhood. Yet Bill Watterson cruelly stopped drawing “Calvin and Hobbes” in 1995, only ten years after it began, and well before it started to get old. It was still funny, still great, and he just stopped. If I were the president of the United States, I’d throw him in prison and force him to draw more strips.

Before you go nodding your heads in agreement, I’d like to point out a problem with this plan: the Supreme Court. Even if I did manage to get elected president, I just know those pesky justices would disallow my imprisonment of Mr. Watterson, citing constitutional concerns. They would claim that his imprisonment would violate his constitutional rights, without ever considering our rights to read “Calvin and Hobbes.” This is why I would like to propose Amendment 28 to the United States Constitution: “Upon the ratification of this Amendment, Bill Watterson will be jailed for 15 years, or until he has produced 5000 additional ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ strips.”

Amending the Constitution is no simple matter, and not one to be taken lightly. However, in this case, the benefits are so great that we have no other recourse. While the sensible readers among you understand that this plan simply “makes sense,” I will outline my arguments below to satisfy those law-school types:

1) Bill Watterson is a small minority. There are an estimated 290,809,777 people in the United States of America (July 1, 2003 estimate of the U.S. Census Bureau), 290,809,776 of whom are not Bill Watterson. Even if Mr. Watterson himself is inconvenienced, the people who read his new “Calvin and Hobbes” strips will be thrilled to re-enter the magical world of a boy and his tiger. Sometimes, we must make tough decisions for the greater good of the greater number; sometimes, these decisions harm good people. This is a mere inevitability of politics.

2) Bill Watterson is a cartoonist. The equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was written in 1868, before cartoonists ever existed. Had our founding fathers known of “cartooning” and its implications, they would have explicitly exempted them from certain rights, most likely the right to the “pursuit of happiness” when it impinges upon other citizens’ happiness. Although the Constitution may appear to protect cartoonists, this is merely an illusion caused by our projection of our current society onto an ancient document.

3) Bill Watterson is a cartoonist by choice. Just as Yo-Yo Ma was not born a cellist nor George W. Bush born a president, Bill Watterson was not born a cartoonist. His ultimate choice of profession was deliberate, as shown by his dogged determination in the face of multiple rejections. Although his rare interviews cite him as having been interested in cartoons his whole life, it is obvious that he chose cartooning of his own volition, thereby sacrificing some of the rights afforded to other workers.

4) The sanctity of our newspapers is in danger. When I open The Boston Globe and flip to the comics page, it is usually a disappointment. Curtis is flushing his dad’s cigarettes down the toilet while Garfield bemoans the fact that it is Monday. Strong newspapers are built on strong comics. Although poor comics may be tolerated for a period, slowly this mediocrity will creep into the rest of the newspaper like an infectious disease. If our citizens do not rally to the defense of the comics page in their time of need, they will soon see grammatical errors in New York Times headlines and sheets of blank newsprint in The Washington Post.

5) Our entire political and social system is threatened. Professor Peter Eigen of Transparency International has done groundbreaking research which proves that newspaper readership and public perceptions of corruption are strongly correlated (see www.transparency.org for further details). A decline in the quality of our newspapers will obviously lead to less readers, which in turn will allow the government to perpetrate further abuses of its power. It is every citizen’s civic duty to ensure that our political process remains a paragon of integrity. The only way to do this is to re-introduce “Calvin and Hobbes” to American newspapers.

6) The majority of Americans want this to happen. Ask the person on your right if he or she would like to see “Calvin and Hobbes” return to the funnies page. Now ask the person on your left. See? The foundation of a democracy is the will of the people, and the people demand “Calvin and Hobbes.” If Bill Watterson refuses to accept this, we must resort to the power of the law. The law we must resort to does not exist yet, but it will if my fellow Americans support me on this critical issue.

“In all that lies ahead, let us match strong convictions with kindness and goodwill and decency” (George W. Bush; remarks given on February 24, with full transcript at www.whitehouse.gov).

Amal Dorai is a member of the class of 2004.


This story was published on Friday, April 9, 2004.
Volume 124, Number 18
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