Peace, War, and Political Cartoons on Matinicus Island
A former island teacher who has fallen in love with Matinicus (as people occasionally do) returned for a visit last week and was amazed at how much there was to...attend. The little community was buzzing with the goofy summer socializing we enjoy — perhaps a sophisticated tete-a-tete hanging around the grill at the Farmer’s Market (sorry, no farmers this year, but wicked good sausages). The annual Red Dahlia strawberry daiquiri fling was this week, and the all-chocolate benefit night for the church, and soon, the launching party for the prettiest little Matinicus Peapod ever built in the twenty-first century. Boy, we sure sound like a dangerous crowd.
On Tuesday of last week, nothing happened. A reporter from the Associated Press was here on the island, presumably looking forward to breaking news about rioting in the streets, but alas, none. I was damned near on my knees (yes, a carefully chosen juxtaposition of images) hoping for a peaceful day, recalling how exactly one year before I’d had the most stress-inducing EMS call of my life, urged by a panicked brother to a man shot on the Matinicus wharf. A man shot, I learned later that day, by a friend of mine.
Everybody in this town went to bed with a headache that night.
Instead that morning, saints be praised, the birds sang in the early light, the coffee and doughnuts were ready by 8 a.m., and there was little for excitement beyond the aforementioned reporter blowing his cover by forgetting his official Associated Press pocket notebook while getting himself a cup of coffee and having to call me up and ask me if he’d lost it in the bakery. (Like I’ve made clear in the past: if you write about us, I get to write about you. Them’s the ground rules if you’re going to come out here.) By nightfall, with nothing still happening, I went to bed and slept deeply; much better than last year.
The next morning we were on the front page of the Bangor Daily News, despite the fact that Nothing happened. The fact that Nothing happened, I assumed, was a good-news story. The BDN piece turned out to be the feed from the AP guy (who came back to my place and collected his notepad from beside the gingersnaps). Of course, they didn’t really report that Matinicus was peaceful and that on land, at least, folks were happily eating burgers and trying to repair somebody’s Internet on Criehaven and picking berries and watching Gerard Depardieu bang on the piano for our own Victoria Boothby Ross in “Green Card,” the movie of the week at the one-room schoolhouse.
No. Somebody had to make up a headline using the expression “lobster wars” again. They love that stuff. Of course things are still stressful in the harbor. How could they help but be? Of course, the fact remains that Nothing happened that day, but that was merely an inconvenient detail.
I turned to the op-ed page, my favorite section of any newspaper after the comics, and read Kathleen Parker’s column entitled “Free speech guaranteed to all, including cartoonists.” She mentioned “everybody draw Mohammed day,” which was never really supposed to be serious, but boy, oh, boy.
Apparently there is also “everybody shudder at Matinicus day.”
The next day, Matinicus was the political cartoon. Good ol’ Danby had sketched out a lobsterman who thankfully looked like nobody in particular, a solitary and harmless flannelly looking fellow, smoking a pipe for goodness sake, and the name on the stern of the boat was “Back Off.” I took one look at the boat he’d drawn and said, “Anybody fishing a boat that big would have at least two sternmen aboard, probably a dog and a little kid, too. Nobody with a four-window wheelhouse and seven antennas is going to haul alone.”
Back off, indeed. Thank you, Mr. Danby, you are so right. I’d like to think it is the reporters and the people who believe the stereotypes about us, the prejudiced and the sensationalist, and all the online know-it-alls from inland who drool at our tragedies that should do the backing off.
Eva Murray is tacking up that Danby cartoon beside her desk.