I’m not sure how it happened, but it seems I am now somehow president of this organization. Between the pandemic, a tough economy, the ongoing collapse of the newspaper industry, a violent insurrection, and a war on the very fabric of reality itself, it is arguably not the most auspicious moment for me to be doing this. In fact, what am I thinking? Get me out of here!
I’d like to thank our former President Kevin Siers for his unflappable leadership and diplomatic wizardry through a challenging two years. I’m sure he has left the AAEC Oval Office in excellent shape, and I will not need to remove any Diet Coke buttons.
While the big picture is less than rosy, I do believe political cartooning will always exist as an art form, even if there may be a smaller number of professionals earning a living from it. Speaking for myself, over the last year I’ve heard more sincere outpourings of gratitude from readers than I’ve heard in my entire career. One person voluntarily sent a check to a newspaper to keep me in print (this never happens). I’ve seen work from several of our members go massively viral on Twitter. We are appreciated, if not always proportionately rewarded.
One of my favorite parts of the AAEC is the connection it gives us with cartoonists abroad. I have always relished meeting these groups, such as the time a State Department group of cartoonists from the Middle East came through Portland, OR in 2011. (This was not an AAEC event, though I believe the same group came to our convention that year.) I was able to meet the great Doaa el-Adl of Egypt, who is someone I like to think of when I need reminding of cartoonists breaking down traditional barriers and standing up to repressive regimes.
It’s in this spirit that I look forward to working with Terry Anderson and CRNI on highlighting human rights abuses against cartoonists around the world. There are so many cases that don’t get Western media attention (such as Ahmed Kabir Kishore of Bangladesh), perhaps because they don’t involve Westerners. But they’re all our sisters and brothers, and a stark reminder of what happens when countries are ruled by authoritarian leaders without an independent judicial system aligned with democratic values.
I’m also looking forward to having a blast of a convention with Wes Tyrell and the rest of our Canadian friends in the ACC once this wretched plague is over. We don’t have a date for this yet, but in the meantime we’ll try to organize some online events to mingle and commiserate. We’ve also begun some new efforts to improve the website, thanks to the volunteer efforts of Eric Shansby.
I know it seems like not much is happening right now, but there is some fun stuff ahead. In the meantime, remember to pay your dues if you haven’t already. Do me a favor and don’t let the organization run out of money on my watch. At least wait until the next president. Seriously, let’s keep the flame alive and see our medium into a better future.
AAEC President 2021-2022