(August 9, 2013)

I must take exception with the editorial cartoon appearing in the Aug. 8 issue. It depicts a hog at the Howard County Fair asking, "Eww…what's that smell?" and a sheep standing adjacent to it responding, "They're judging politicians over in the show pavilion." Yucks all around. Clearly, the cartoon's point is aimed at jumping on the anti-politician bandwagon with an attempt at humor.

Without question the dysfunctional government in Washington, D.C., especially Congress, and the never- ending battles in Annapolis have soured a public with a good dose of cynicism as evidenced by recent polls. But it is unfair to paint all of our elected officials in such broad strokes to signify disdain, even from barnyard animals, for all politicians.

Before readers get riled up and say, "Geez, it's only a cartoon; lighten up," lest we forget, editorial cartoons have been a powerful visual device for newspapers to express an editor's (or board's) position on political matters since the mid-19th century though such cartoons have been in play for a longer period of time. Readers tend to view them and are influenced by them. That's why they are published.

Let's be fair. There are many elected officials in this county and elsewhere who work hard for the common good. Even those I disagree with (and there are plenty) deserve respect for their chosen path of public service, frequently at personal sacrifice, and who sincerely try to make things better for the citizenry.

Messages as portrayed in this cartoon could have an adverse impact on young people who are expected to be our leaders of the future. If the editorial board of the Howard County Times/Columbia Flier chooses to deride politicians, dedicated individuals may pursue a different route and leave those leadership positions to less-qualified folks. Moreover, the percentage of those voting is alarmingly low as it is. Don't make it worse by pouring fuel on the cynicism fire.

One of a newspaper's civic obligations is to encourage participation in the political process, not degrade it, however lighthearted the message is conveyed. If an individual elected official "stinks," by all means call him or her out. Some do, for sure, but definitely not all as the cartoon implies.

Steve Charing

Clarksville