Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bill Mauldin meets the Muslims

I just got the two volume set of the collected works of two-time Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Bill Mauldin, Willie & Joe, the WWII years, plus the book Bill Mauldin’s Army.

Mauldin's Willie & Joe created the term "GI Joe"

Mauldin was a real genius at observing the globalization of Americans in WWII. This was the time when American's liberated Europe, and first became exposed to strange and bizarre cultures of foreigners.

Mauldin’s cartoons are never artificial and they capture the true character of the “greatest generation”, the honorable men who went on to make America the greatest power of the 20th Century.

Much of Bill Mauldin’s work chronicles the mundane indignities of being GI Joe, but if you strip away the uniforms, it’s all relevant today.

Every cartoon hints of Mauldin’s pure unvarnished genius, like this one:

The Prince and the Pauper

WWII was the time when Americans became globalized, and for many a soldier, this was the first and only time that they set foot outside the USA. Mauldin was a typical country boy (raised in New Mexico) had he never seen a foreigner, much less been overseas.

Mauldins's first impressions of new cultures reflect the boys in blue, and they are both hilarious and fascinating.

Meet the Moslems

One interesting cartoon in the book illustrates the first time GI’s ever met non-Christian people, the native “Moslims” of North Africa and he depicts the Muslim children with cigarettes hanging from their lips!

Mauldin writes about this encounter with Muslims in his cartoon titled “Bath Day”:

“A Moslim’s religion makes him very modest.

He shrouds his wife from head to foot, and would have a fit if his youngest son rolled-up his sleeves.

But let a soldier start his bath, and if there is a Moslem within 20 limes, he will bring his wife and 17 little Moslems quietly upon the scene and stare”.

Bill Mauldin was not afraid to tackle tough issues and remained the sounding board for the real-America, like in this desegregation cartoon from 1960: