Cartoon thread with Jack Ohman

Editorial Cartoon by Jack Ohman of The Oregonian, August 2011

Editorial Cartoon by Jack Ohman of The Oregonian, August 2011

Over on Facebook we’re discussing a recent editorial cartoon by The Oregonian’s Jack Ohman.

Here’s the backchatter you didn’t read on Facebook. (Posted with permissions).

From the Mental Health Association 8/22/2011 2:56 PM

Hey Jack.

We appreciate your sense of humor and that you point out the GOP’s incongruities, but it’s really unnecessary to use characters of persons suffering from mental illness for an illustration. These regrettable images are akin to dressing in blackface or telling jokes about persons with dwarfism.

From Jack Ohman Aug 22, 2011 at 2:58 PM

I appreciate your point and your work.

However, tell me how, as a caricaturist, I am supposed to illustrate this particular point? This is a serious inquiry.


From Mental Health Association 8/22/2011 3:22 PM

Pondering. . . Yeah it’s a pretty good set up and punch line. I’m not constructed to make a better one.

Acch – but come on. Our folks are having a hard enough time with discrimination, persecution and stigma without knowledgeable persons adding to the general dismay. The Oregonian has been a stalking horse since Bob Landauer’s time for persons with mental illness and addiction, writing scores of terrific news stories, analysis, opinion and even an occasional entertainment piece. Really one of the best in the nation, along with St Petersburg, on our issue. Help us -don’t hurt us.

[John] Huntsman tweeted he likes Captain Beefheart. He can’t be a real GOPer and even know something like Captain Beefheart ever existed. Does Barack know Beefheart? David Cameron? Andrew Cuomo? I’ll bet Bill Richardson know who Captain Beefheart was.

From Jack Ohman Aug 22, 2011 at 3:26 PM

Because otherwise, I don’t have a reliable way to do it. I mean, there’s a lot of noise out there. If you have a better way to portray it, so that I may be sensitive and yet convey a very real point, then I am all ears.

From Mental Health Association Aug 22, 2011 at 3:43 PM

Okay I’ll think about it. I’ll get back to you.

From Mental Health Association Aug 23, 2011 at 7:26 AM


I think I am not sympathetic to your question. It values a cartoon,a political joke in daily newspaper, albeit a well-constructed joke which we can stipulate is no mean feat, over a mean characterization of stigma, shame, discrimination and oppression of a vast community of disabled persons.

We both remember Foster Brooks and Dean Martin making careers out of laughing at drunks. Even Jonathan Winters – the funniest man in the world – did skits about mental illness. The difference, and perhaps the subtext we knew while watching these was that Brooks and Martin were fake drunks, and Winters had been locked up in the looney bin. He was funnier in part, and edgier, because he was real.

Today you can make fun of us, largely because we (persons with mental illness and addiction) can’t defend ourselves politically. And its easy because when we’re sick, we do stupid stuff. Our website, and the police logs, is filled with the stupid stuff we do when crazy. We’re an easy target.

Here’s the important part – Michele Bachman, Rick Perry et al, aren’t crazy. They’re dangerous to democracy and dangerous to society. And they’re not serious candidates. Gingrich, Trump, Palin are running to build constituencies which buy books, pay for speeches, and watch TV shows, not who vote. They manipulate journalists for their own private interests. Who would want to run the country when you can get paid 2x as a Fox News commentator?

Crazy like a fox.

Our hope is in 10 – 15 years the word ‘crazy’ is confined like the word ‘nigger’ is now. It’s subjugating power is acknowledged and it’s use confined to stand-up comedians who own it because they are one of us – and proud of it.

Jack – thanks for responding. I know your concern is sincere. One last word. Some of our supporters wrote a letter to journalists which you might be interested in reading.


From Jack Ohman Aug 25, 2011

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I appreciate it. You’re the only person who responded to my very sincere plea for their thoughts other than invective.

I will think about this the next time the metaphor “crazy” comes up. Maybe I can figure it out. It’s my job.