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Auchter's Art: There's no single villain

person holding glasses of water filled with a range of terrible contaminants
John Auchter
Michigan Radio

It's easier to draw an editorial cartoon when there's a bad guy. A singular, easily identifiable, no question about it bad guy. And I must confess, this week I was looking for an easy way out. It's summer! And as much as I love to draw cartoons, that's an indoor game. I want to be outside — shooting hoops, catching fireflies, puttering about the yard — it doesn't matter. The last few days in particular have been perfect for not doing actual work.

Alas, this is not a singular bad guy kind of topic. First of all, on the whole, the wide availability of safe drinking water throughout the United States has been a great success, and those responsible should be applauded. Of course for those who have been made sick, poisoned, or killed over the years, that doesn't provide much solace.

But the second (and bigger) reason is that it's quite a complicated topic. Conditions that introduced sewage, industrial waste, lead, and PFAS into drinking water over the years weren't generally the work of pathological villains. It was more likely the result of ignorance or greed, but made worse (much worse) by denial and CYA. So despite my lazy aspirations, the cartoon isn't about blaming a bad guy — it's about recognizing the pattern that causes most of the damage.

Anyway, that's enough analysis. I want to go outside.

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.

Since 1995 John has created Michigan-based editorial cartoons for the Grand Rapids Business Journal, the Grand Rapids Press, and MLive Newspapers. His cartoons are currently featured at MichiganPublic.org and are syndicated to newspapers through the Michigan Press Association. John is an active member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. You can view an archive of his editorial work and other cartoons at Auchtoon.com.
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