Peanuts’ creator, Charles M. Schultz, once said:
“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people… Religion, Politics, and The Great Pumpkin. ”
Lucky for us, he didn’t always follow his own advice:
Beyond its humor, there’s no denying the political message here, and in the cacophony of voices speaking out both for and against guns and their controls, it’s fascinating to note how long this particular issue has been part of the public conversation: Charles Schultz made this point back in 1997 and, despite the 16-year gap in between, it resonates as sharply today.
While some dismiss the political statements of high-profile artists as irrelevant and narcissistic, the creative amongst us have long been cultural mouthpieces for their times, often bringing much-needed light to important issues by virtue of their celebrity status and their ability to articulate the message well. Many of the most insightful and provocative views on social change and political unrest have come from artists such as singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, comedian extraordinaire, George Carlin, and political cartoonist, Garry Trudeau. Even the more recent PSA for Mayors Against Illegal Guns featured well-known artists and writers calling to “demand a plan.” While not nearly as overtly political as Trudeau, Charles Shultz, also took his moments, made his points, and sought to strike nerves of conscience while couching his messages in the sweet and seemingly benign voices of his beloved anti-hero, Charlie Brown, and others of the Peanuts gang.
Interestingly, on the topic of guns, the following was noted in Shultz’ biography:
In 1943, Schulz was drafted into the United States Army. He served as a staff sergeant with the 20th Armored Division in Europe, as a squad leader on a .50 caliber machine gun team. His unit saw combat only at the very end of the war. Schulz said that he only ever had one opportunity to fire his machine gun but forgot to load it. Fortunately, he said, the German soldier he could have fired at willingly surrendered.
Shultz died on February 12, 2000 and, per his request, no panels of the Peanuts have been created since his death, making his older panels, with their touching stories and subtle messages all the more meaningful. His statement about guns made 16 years ago can’t help but underscore the question: why are we still having the same conversation?