In one of the comic strips Garry Trudeau drew shortly after graduating from Yale 40 years ago, the everyman, Mike Doonesbury, is sitting on a stone wall, contentedly snacking on a sack of something while being harangued by the self-appointed campus radical, Mark Slackmeyer. “Doonesbury, this country is being torn apart!” Mark rages. “I just can’t stand by and watch it happen!” He vows to “fight ’till death to make this country great again!”
Then, with Mark still mid-rant, Mike tilts the open sack toward him and politely interrupts to offer a chocolate-chip cookie. In the last frame, Mark is wearing a boyish grin of rapt delight as he bites into one cookie, his left hand buried deep in the bag to grab another. Having silenced his friend, Mike gazes out at the reader with a smile of his own and observes, “Even revolutionaries like chocolate chip cookies.”
It seems surprising that the comics can help teach you that the world is a complicated place, a place where people can simultaneously want social justice for all and chocolate-chip cookies for themselves—possibly, but not necessarily, without being hypocrites. But I was probably 9 or 10 years old when I first came across that particular strip, in one of my mother’s many Doonesbury collections, and I remember it as part of the early education I got from Doonesbury in politics and human frailty (not to mention in how confusing and exciting it could be to be an independent young adult).