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Garry Trudeau laid down a cultural marker this week, turning one of his original Doonesbury characters, BD, into a war casualty. BD was caught in a roadside bombing and had his leg amputated. We asked Trudeau to tell us why he chose to shock his readers.
The strips are about sacrifice, about the kind of shattering loss that completely changes lives.
BD plays a central character in harm's way, and his charmed life takes a dramatic turn on a road outside Fallujah. In the opening panels, he's in shock, hallucinating with voices cutting in and out. Medics call this time "the golden hour" — that small window of opportunity when lives are most easily saved.
BD is Medivaced out, and in the third strip, the point of view is reversed, revealing just how grievous his wound really is. We also see his hair, its presence almost as startling as the absence of his leg.
Garry Trudeau, cartoonist: "What I mean to convey is that BD's life has been irrevocably changed — that another chapter has begun. He's now on an arduous journey of recovery and rehabilitation.What I'm hoping to describe are the coping strategies that get people through this. There is no culture of complaint among the wounded. Most feel grateful to be alive and respectful of those who have endured even worse fates. But for many, a kind of black humor is indispensable in fending off bitterness and despair, so that's what will animate the strips that follow. I have to approach this with humility and care.
I'm sure I won't always get it right, and people will let me know when I don't. But it seems worth doing. This month alone, we've sustained nearly 600 wounded in action. Whether you think we should be in Iraq or not, we can't tune it out. We have to remain mindful of the terrible losses that individual soldiers are suffering in our name."
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
A new book by journalist Bob Woodward on the war plan for Iraq, and the presidential campaign became fodder for late-night comics this week.
Stewart: "But what of the man at the center of this storm, Colin Powell, the man portrayed by Woodward as out of the loop?"
Secretary Powell: "And I was committed as anyone else to see the end of this regime. The destruction of a regime that put people in mass graves and had weapons of mass destruction, we believed at the time."
Stewart: "Unfortunately for Powell, by the time the war plan had passed through Bush to Cheney, then to Rice, then to Rumsfeld, finally to Prince Bandar, and then down to him, he was actually left wondering why we were going after leopards of grass construction."
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Stewart: "Kerry's 33-year-old charges continue to raise the hackles of fellow veterans, like John O'Neill, who served in the same division as Kerry and told CNN's Wolf Blitzer he is still angry about his war crime accusations."
O'Neill on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports: "Because we were there, we know the truth — that this guy's unfit to be the commander-in-chief."
Stewart: "So Kerry's behavior in 1971 makes him unfit to be commander-in-chief. Hmmm. I wonder if Bush's behavior in 1971 would hold up to that kind of scrutiny."
John Belushi, Animal House: "Food Fight!!"
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Leno: "Boy, this campaign is getting ugly. You know, I'm not taking sides here but now some Republicans are suggesting that John Kerry actually tried to win three Purple Hearts in Vietnam because he knew that if you won three, you get to go home early. What an easy way to get out of combat by letting yourself get shot three times.… John Kerry has three Purple Hearts for his war wounds and Dick Cheney has one Purple Heart from deep-dish pizza."