If political cartoonist Bill Sanders has proven anything in his nearly 56-year journalistic career, it is that differences in opinion do not equate to unpatriotic. A man of this nature, according to fellow cartoonist Jules Feiffer, embodies the meaning of citizen: "a man of the people," a person vested in the public interest. Such is the power of Sanders's memoir, Against the Grain, in which he mines the United States' recent past to educate and empower the citizenry.
The early part of Sanders's memoir is anecdotal and nostalgic. He grew up in a dysfunctional Tennessee family and bounced around the South in his formative years, discovering his calling through the no-holds-barred commentaries of Herblock's Here and Now. Sanders honed his craft through hours of reading and research. No topic was taboo; his caustic witticisms skewered politicians from both left and right, earning the grudging respect (and resentment) of those he covered. His musings on 1960s extremism, the paranoia of the Nixon administration and the distractions of both Bush presidencies draw eerie parallels to 21st-century politics and culture. When Sanders describes Alabama governor George Wallace's "bigoted bombast... ready and willing to exploit that border for personal gain," he could easily be describing the current political climate.
Sanders may be the real-life incarnate of Jimmy Stewart's Mr. Smith or Gary Cooper's Mr. Deeds, but his criticisms will certainly incite those who are unwilling to embrace contrarian viewpoints. Such things are not Sanders's concern. "It is our role to absorb enough outrage on the public's behalf to call out the hypocrites and rogues and try to awaken similar outrage in our readers." --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant