The year was 1989. Millions of wheelchair-users were about to be recognized for the first time by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Millions more had came out of "family abuse" closets to join Adult Children of Alcoholics 12-step groups. And John Callahan's just published autobiography, Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, made fun of both. Callahan passed away last week at the age of 59.
At a time when the disability rights movement was telling the nation that mobility impaired people were not "crippled" or "confined to a wheelchair" (and should never be patted on the head), Callahan made jokes about people getting out of their wheelchairs to "heal"... like dogs on the side of able bodied people. Ouch
At a time when self-help groups for alcoholics, children of alcoholics, overeaters, gamblers, cocaine addicts, marijuana addicts and sex and love addicts were just getting popular, a Callahan cartoon showed a woman at a 12-step meeting for arm amputees crying "I just need hug." He titled an entire cartoon book, Digesting the Child Within.
When the nation was trying to get past the Rodney King incident, a Callahan cartoon shows a Los Angeles kiosk giving the time, weather and number of Rodney King arrests.