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Auchter's Art

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

One of the great things about being Catholic is that you can do whatever you want to do, go to confession, say a few Our Fathers and Hail Marys, and all is forgiven — you are healed and free to start over! Except... that's not really how it works. At least, not the way it's supposed to work.

Wednesday morning I had sketched out kind of a light-hearted, "I know, right?" sort of cartoon to ease us all into the new year. Nothing too edgy. Of course that idea went out the window (along with a great deal of our nation's pride and dignity) with the insurrection later that afternoon. My Thursday deadline loomed.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

When it's a big year for news, political cartoonists have plenty of material. Michigan Radio cartoonist John Auchter definitely took advantage of this year's chaotic news cycle.

Here are his seven most popular cartoons of the year.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

You know what I was talking about, right? Don't make me say it. Please. I don't want to have to say it!

Okay, fine. The Electoral College results are in. The presidential election is over. It's final. It's final, final.

John Auchter

This week's cartoon presented a bit of a challenge. I intended to present two people having a conversation, but I wanted to model good behavior. The conversation itself suggests that the two people haven't seen each other for a while, which implies they aren't "bubbled."

But I couldn't put them indoors and mask them because I wanted to show their smiles fading with each panel. So I put them outside and at a reasonable distance, but still probably too close because I didn't want to draw them any smaller and lose their expressions.

cartoon of betsy devos
John Auchter for Michigan Radio

I drew a variation of this cartoon four years ago. The first panel acknowledged why Christians celebrate Christmas — the birth of Jesus Christ. The second panel reminded readers that the birth was, of course, just the beginning — he eventually grew up and had a few things to say how to treat the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised, and so on. So being Christian is much more than just saying "Merry Christmas." (I know, not much of punchline.)

cartoon
John Auchter for Michigan Radio

Twenty-one years ago, my wife, my two daughters, and I went on a trip to England during Thanksgiving. My brother was living in London at the time and had invited us to stay with him. It was magical. We toured all around. We rode the Underground, we took a motorboat up the Thames, we went to see The Lion King on stage. It couldn't have been more perfect.

editorial cartoon of Mike Shirkey and Lee Chatfield ignoring the coronavirus crisis
John Auchter for Michigan Radio

The posturing around the COVID crisis by Speaker of the Michigan House, Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), and Senate Majority Leader, Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), reminds me of the 2008 animated film Kung-Fu Panda. (Well of course it does — it's only natural.)

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

How utterly disheartening it must be to be a frontline worker right now. Especially for those in health care professions.

I feel this requires no further explanation.

John Auchter / auchtoons.com

Back in the day, I used to play in a lot of 3-on-3 basketball tournaments. (Pre-COVID, I used to play basketball period. *sigh*) A lot of Gus Mackers. A lot of local fundraiser events. The idea was to simulate pickup games, the kind you'd play in a driveway with neighbors and friends. So, no refs. Call your own fouls. Play hard, but have fun. And that worked really great. Until it didn't.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

What can be said about this election that hasn't already been said? It seems like it has all been covered. And with that comes a temptation to slow down when we see the finish line. But now is not the time let up — we all gotta run through the tape and complete the race at full speed.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

There is just so much happening. And keeping up on all the latest developments in the election and pandemic feels like drinking from the proverbial fire hose. But then more news comes that we should all pay attention to. Just this week the story broke of a new report revealing that parents of 545 migrant children separated at the U.S. border cannot be found. That is terrible. And tragic. And overwhelming.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

I'm at a loss for words this week. I mean, I can understand how a plot to kidnap a sitting governor could get started. People are passionate. We get ideas. We say crazy, stupid things.

What I don't get is how the plan got far enough that the FBI had to step in. I'm guessing it has something to do with extreme ideology, easy access to weapons, and encouragement from Presidential tweets. But that doesn't mean I understand it.

cartoon depicting senate majority leader mike shirkey
John Auchter for Michigan Radio

Last week I was watching a panel discussion on the current state of editorial cartooning via Zoom. One of my good friends, Angelo Lopez, was one the featured guests. Angelo draws for Philippine News Today, and so much of his work reflects issues related to the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, a murderous despot. As a consequence, Angelo tends to draw a lot of skulls. In the course of his presentation, Angelo casually remarked, "I'm tired of drawing skulls."

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Comedian Jim Gaffigan has a bit where he says, "I'm a vegetarian now. Well, not a strict vegetarian. I do eat beef and pork. And chicken."

I think that sums us up nicely, don't you? Us Americans. Us Michiganders. We sometimes say one thing, and then can completely contradict ourselves in the next breath. Well, not everybody. But enough of us.

cartoon of people talking to police about stolen yard sign
John Auchter for Michigan Radio

It's election season, which brings out the yard signs, which brings out the people who steal and vandalize yard signs. I'm sure you've seen the stories in newspapers and the postings on social media. Maybe you've had first-hand experience.

I try not to be too judgmental. I can imagine how in a moment of passion (or, more likely, drunkenness) an otherwise reasonable individual could have a lapse of reason. Naturally, it would need to be followed up with an apology and full restoration. It's forgivable, right? Yard signs are by their nature ephemeral.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

You are free to take the cartoon however you like, but I feel compelled to say that I intend it in a spirit of camaraderie. It's an incredibly stressful time — the fires, the floods, the ongoing pandemic, all whipped into a frenzy by the upcoming election. I'm with you. I feel you.

cartoon of people watching the news
John Auchter for Michigan Radio

Ugh! It happened AGAIN! These minute-by-minute news cycles are killing me. I had a complete cartoon all mapped out:

  • Frame 1: Trump telling a bedtime story to a middle-aged Michigan guy, "...and then all the high-paying manufacturing jobs came back and the Michiganders lived happy ever after." The guy smiles and says, "What a great story. It's obviously not true, but I love hearing it."
  • Frame 2: He turns to the other side of the bed and says, "Okay Uncle Joe, now you tell it." And Biden starts in with "Once upon a time..."

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

If you have limited time, I would encourage you to quit reading now and just go look at some of the videos taken at the Memorial Drive event on Belle Isle on Monday. It was really quite poignant. It's so difficult to conceptualize what large numbers of deaths actually means, and this seemed like an awfully effective way of making it meaningful.

First, I want to stress that I'm not making a "both sides do it" point with the cartoon. Well, okay, I am, but it's nuanced (and like political conventions, political cartoons are not particularly well suited for nuance).

In my sampling of the Democratic and Republican Conventions over these past two weeks it was clear that fear was the featured technique to attract my vote. For the Democrats it was, "Can you imagine four more years of Donald Trump?" And for the Republicans it was one long, extended, panicked scream.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

I had a completely different cartoon mapped out when I sat down to draw, and then this story broke: Michigan reaches $600 million settlement in Flint water crisis.

So I started again from scratch. It didn't take me long to find parallels between the current coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing Flint water crisis — how Flint was kind of a "canary in the coal mine" for what we as a nation are experiencing now. Well, I suppose it'd be more correct to say that the Flint water crisis could have been a canary in the coal mine. (We all would have needed to notice and care that the canary died for the analogy to play through.)

cartoon about college football
John Auchter for Michigan Radio

As many of you college football fans are already painfully aware, the Big Ten Conference postponed its 2020 football season in hope of being able to play it next spring. The Pac-12 quickly followed suit. Many other conferences with smaller schools (including the Mid-America Conference) have already cancelled theirs.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

Do you remember how I wrote last week that I was on vacation? Well, that means that this week is the first week after vacation, which everybody knows means two weeks of work scrunched into a single week. Which means no additional commentary because I have to get back to work!

John Auchter is a freelance political cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

This is family vacation time for me, so in order to fully appreciate and benefit from the "not working" part of what a vacation is actually supposed to be (a bit of a foreign concept to most of us Americans, I know), I drew this cartoon a week ago. That's always a challenge — picking some topic that can remain relevant (heck, even recognizable) when news cycles continue to accelerate toward warp speed.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

In lieu of additional commentary this week, I would just like to encourage you to find reliable news sources (AP, Reuters, NPR) and follow this story — the President deploying federal law enforcement to Portland and Chicago (with Detroit on the short list for next). It's chilling and wrong and everything the United States of America is not. It's vital that patriots (real patriots) take a stand against it.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

There's an under-appreciated scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off where Ferris's sister Jeanie (filled with indignation and attitude) walks into the principal's office. The school secretary blankly greets her with, "Hello, Jeanie. Who's bothering you now?"

John Auchter / For Michigan Radio

I feel the need to let you know — this cartoon was inspired by the first Betsy DeVos story this week:

Several Democratic-led states and the District of Columbia have joined in a lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, accusing the Trump administration of trying to unlawfully divert pandemic relief funds from public schools to private schools.

john auchter cartoon about Facebook
John Auchter for Michigan Radio

I'm sure you've had a similar experience on Facebook — a post from one over-the-edge friend complaining aggressively about how her views are being systematically suppressed next to a post from a befuddled friend who went missing for awhile having been booted for something totally benign. Or maybe one of these people is you. In any case, the common theme (and irony) is that Facebook has done them dirty, and they are telling you about it on Facebook.

John Auchter / Michigan Radio

I considered holding off on drawing this cartoon and saving it for next week and the Independence Day holiday. It would have been more of an indictment of how, we as a nation, have seemingly forgotten our ideals, how the United States was once young, scrappy, and hungry and we didn't throw away our shot. (I can steal from Hamilton, too, Mr. Bolton.)

This week, the City of Detroit removed a bust of Christopher Columbus from its pedestal near the entrance of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. It's in storage for now as the mayor and city officials decide what to do with it. No doubt it has historical value — it's 110 years-old. Like many Columbus-related honors, this one came as a gift from Italian-Americans.

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