Messages in Editorial Cartoons

In the cartoon of Dec. 11, three Asian people are ordering from a menu at the "US Restaurant." The caption is: "Let's see, we've eaten your textiles, your shoe industry, your electronics, your auto plants ... hmmm ... I'll have a half order of your aircraft industry."The serious problem with this cartoon lies in the reference to auto plants. Taiwan does not even have the technology required to build a reliable automobile. It has relied on the Japanese for co-production. More important, the cartoon reminds me, quite sadly, of the terrible injustice that occurred in Detroit nearly a decade ago. Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American, was brutally beaten to death several days before his wedding. His two attackers were auto workers laid off during recessionary times not much different from our present economic climate. As a result, the accused blamed their unemployed status on the Japanese and Japanese imports. Unfortunately, the auto workers mistook Vincent Chin for a Japanese. We should learn from history to tread lightly in difficult economic times because society can easily fall victim to scapegoat mentality. Mark Fung, Brooklyn, N.Y.

The cartoon of Nov. 22 raises a critical problem with the public misperception of "community service." While the cartoonist cannot be blamed for the term itself, his cartoon reinforces the connection of community service with guilt and with doing some inconsequential work. It was a mistake from the beginning for the justice system to name a public penalty or act of restitution "community service." Such a misnomer simply reinforces public confusion regarding the nature of selfless acts of service on the part of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Americans. The concept of service as a means of restitution, of reintegration into the community through serving it, is a healthy one. But let's hope the "service" truly is service. Nancy Geyer Christopher, Washington

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