Dig for Your Dinner – The leftovers from military base camps in Da Nang made tempting leavings for locals. Here, they scavenge in the refuse for edibles and more tangible items that can be sold in street markets. (Courtesy Gene Basset)

Who longs for an adventure? I know of a petite teenage Californian latina qualified as gifted by the LAUSD  board living in the San Fernando Valley who’s goal of  just success, no specifics whatsoever, has dispelled whatever color might enter her monochromatic life, be it parties, romance, recklessness, treks into the wild. But art has provided an escapade from this supposed straightforward fate.  Be it visual art, books, or music.  Pinterest is her personal blackhole. Her gallery overflows with captures of aesthetic that to the passerby’s eye is a superfluous detail of fate. She never has time to finish her homework, but can somehow finish an entire series of 10 books in less than a month. In a way, one can say she experiences ecstasy in an unorthodox and unrecognizable manner, for through the bland lifestyle she can more easily recognize the color and what yearns to stand out. Subjects and details so rare or so common, they can only be recognized through her eye. But should this remains  the standard for the world? Ratiocinate, for although you might not currently grasp this rhetorical question, it is nevertheless healthy for the philosophical mind, for without it, what are we? And why would you be reading this?

Gene Basset, political cartoonist for the Scripps Howard News Service, recounts his adventure in the depths of the forest of Vietnam, during a season of conflict, competition, and confusion. He doesn’t convey his story through the common technique of words and phrases, but with a Japanese ink painting aesthetic, almost impeccably capturing the moments there, through what I believe is a compromise of luck and technique. Scrolling through his artwork, which I stumbled upon through a war website, the captions I read were very detached, and it created an sense of emptiness and lack of emotion, that when I saw this image, my mind was confused, it didn’t know what to think. It felt no emotion, and it felt whatever it would feel would be an artificial creation of the feeling. As if I purposely propelled myself to feel a certain way. It’s a strange feeling that rarely comes toward, because rhetoric is in everything, but the way the words were phrased in this article, the icy, unfeeling manner of describing the image, provided no sense of pathos. One would have to feel for oneself. I still don’t feel that sorrowful sympathy that typically accompanies images of tragedy and poverty, what sin has left destitute and haggard. Yes, the image above, after several severe reflections, should incite sorrow, but it is an interesting discovery that I can’t really feel such an emotion, despite the business of the image above. I wonder if the captions were worded differently, if they contained some sort of rhetoric that painted the image in a different light, would I feel different.

I don’t intend to criticize art and say that it is meaningless and convey no emotion. For it does. Colors and poses are what constitute the emotion, but typically, these paintings and sculptures rarely portray what actually occurs. You don’t see a man who just lost melodramatically collapse on the side of a light pole, and saunter away with a meaningful gait back home. Not that all art is like this. Photography for example, may convey this realistically. Gene Basset does so as well. But Gene Basset does it in such a way, that is appears so normal, so appropriate, although the content itself is something appalling. He delivers it just the way it is. No adornments, no forethought. It was his task as a cartoonist, to document what occurs at the moment. Because of this, one can compare his drawings to real life. We pass each day, missing the minor details, the common subjects, that they become ephemeral to the eye. Even poverty. We know of it, but our life goes on. It’s a minor detail to those who aren’t in it. And that empty feeling I had when I looked at this drawing, is what I believe everyone has. It is the task of activists, and people like that petite latina, to open the eyes of others, through rhetoric, and surface genuine emotion.