Writer and Artist: Joe Sacco
But here's the problem: exploring any artistic medium, or really any function of culture, with sufficient breadth and depth leads to inevitable confrontation with both religion and politics. As much as we might wish to believe that we are above the fray, much of who we are within the global community is defined by those two considerations. Art can be beautiful and transporting but at times, it must also be topical and revealing.
Joe Sacco is an unusual figure within the comics industry. He is a journalist first, a comic artist second. For over two decades now, he has traveled to the world's war-torn regions - Palestine, Bosnia, Chechnya - and filed his reports in comic book form. Palestine is one of his best known works, a nine-issue series of material compiled from interviews in both the West Bank and Gaza from December 1991 to January 1992. A Nation Occupied collects the West Bank portion of the story, issues #1-6. Sacco presents a ground-level view of the hardships endured by ordinary Palestinians during the Intifada of the late '80s and early '90s. The perspective is predictably biased. Even so, reading such a book leaves one planning donations to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
Sacco's artwork is richly detailed, down to individual bricks in the cobblestone. People, including the artist himself, are generally rendered in a more satirical fashion than are their surroundings. The visual imagery provides a more textured world than might have been possible through text alone.
I don't want to delve too far into my own feelings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I grew up in a community with a large and prominent Jewish population. Israel was a front burner issue. There was also a smaller Arab contingent at my high school who were not shy about sharing their opinions. Full disclosure, I'm also married to an Arab-American. In short, I've had plenty of exposure to both sides of the matter and my own position is long-considered and well-developed. It's virtually impossible to be a global citizen in the 21st century without awareness of the conflict. Nothing in Sacco's book came as a startling revelation. People at war do horrible things to one another and it's hard not to feel sympathy for those in the weakest position. That's not politics. It's compassion. I'd hope we can all agree that the world could use a lot more of that.