Cartoons used to be funny, or at least pithy. Like many things in our squabbling world, they now have become crude weapons of international malice.
I am aghast at the latest output of the formerly distinguished cartoonist, Bill Leake, and at The Australian, for the grotesque payback cartoon targeting Indonesia. So, the Indonesians published a crude cartoon of our Prime Minister as a dingo humping the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer. That was tacky of them - and rather atypical. I must say I was among those whose eyebrows were raised, albeit that I didn't really disagree with the sentiment.
But to turn the tables and repeat the imagery, using Indonesia's Susilo Bambang Yudhoyomo humping a Papuan, was as base and naive as it was unoriginal.
We already have a crisis in the sensitivities abraded by Australia's granting of protection to Papuan asylum seekers. This was what irked the Indonesians in the first place. 42 people who want to stay in Australia. The repercussions have been monumental - even Indonesia backing away from Australia's assistance in funding work against the spread of bird flu. That was before the idiot cartoon.
I simply can't see why Australian diplomacy with Indonesia is perpetually so badly handled. Indonesia is our neighbour, for heaven's sake. It is a much more complex country than ours and it has a strict core culture of respect for authority. Showing respect is crucial to all communications.
We may not always understand our neighbours and we may not agree with some of their actions, but they are still our neighbours and we should be borrowing cups of sugar and not throwing rubbish at one another.
Clearly, the only thing learned from the debacle with the Danish cartoons which sniped at Islam is that cartoonists have immense power - and now cartoonists are running amok with it.
Someone should take their pens away.