Political cartoons are a funny business. And if they're good, they hit a nerve as well as a funny bone. A look at cartoons about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings in Parkland, Florida, when compared to lampoons of yesteryear, suggest that American virtue has declined.

Once upon a time

Back in the '40s, a popular cartoon theme was the Kinsey report. In one send-up, a woman is shown sitting across from her husband at the breakfast table reading “The Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” hidden inside the pages of House and Garden magazine.

Angst nowadays is less than about libido and more about life and death.

Gut-punching parodies

Not unexpectedly, most of the cartoons about the school shootings are grim and gruff, and some even violent. Examples: an overweight figure of Uncle Sam lying atop a figure marked NRA, shielding him on a floor strewn with dead children, saying “Everything's okay, you're safe.” A a boy grinning widely as he hefts an Ar-15 automatic rifle under the caption, “It's fun. It's lethal. It's legal. Discount for disgruntled students.” A greeting card display marked “Mass Shootings Condolence Cards” divided by category: “Mall, School, Church, Concerts.” Or cartoon titled “As American as...” divided in four panels with individual headers: “Baseball,” “Apple Pie,” Mass Shootings,” Failed Leadership.” Children pledging allegiance to the flag, saying, “One nation under siege.”

Lost innocence, lost souls

One thing you don't expect to see in a cartoon about the murdering of children is a quiet, gentle drawing with a quiet, gentle message.

Maybe that's why the cartoon by Canadian artist Pia Guerra hits so hard. What you see is a little girl with a multitude of children behind her – each with wide, wondering eyes -- extending her hand out to Aaron Feis, the Parkland school security guard who took bullets to protect students, saying, “ Come on Mister Feis.

So many of us want to meet you.”


Guerra told the press that the mass of children stands for those murdered in school shootings; although she added that most of those pictured in this particular cartoon stand in for those lost in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that left 28 dead. Her aim was to emphasize the gentle innocence of the gunned down children, she said.

“This is who they are. This is all that we lost.” Reportedly, when she posted the cartoon on her Twitter page, it was re-tweeted more than 20,000 times.

Big boy at work

Since the presidential election, Guerra, has been practicing her cartooning skills on Trump's misdeeds. One of those that also got re-tweeted more than 20,000 times depicts a miniaturized version of the president signing something at his desk as he sits on the lap of former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who says, “That's it, who's a big boy now?” And Trump answers, “I'm a big boy!” Like the drawing of Mr. Feis, there's a tenderness to Guerra's work so marked that you almost feel pity for Trump. Almost.