Ethics Dunce: The Dr. Seuss Museum

The fanatics who pollute the left end of our political spectrum apparently have no limits to their purges, political correctness tantrums, grandstanding, bullying, and efforts to warp the past, present and future. To fit their rigid view of a “just” culture, they have begun demanding that the cultural landscape must constantly be cleansed; no real or imagined discomfort to sensitive progressive souls can be permitted to survive in art, history, literature or the public square.

Since even their worst excesses are cloaked in self-righteousness and the Saint’s Excuse, what this requires of the rest of us—you know, those who have perspective and proportion, believe in diversity of thought, and object to airbrushing reality out of the nation’s palette—to have the courage and integrity to say, “No.”

Sometimes “Hell no.”

The directors of the new Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts lack these and other necessary markers of ethical character and responsible citizenship. Thus when three prominent children’s authors who had been invited to attend the Children’s Literature Festival at the Seuss Museum to be held on October 14 threatened to boycott the event because the above mural, painted to replicate a scene from Dr. Seuss’s “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,”  was, they claimed, offensive, the museum cravenly excised that section of the painting.

Mo Willems, Mike Curato and Lisa Yee issued a public letter condemning the drawing as a “jarring racial stereotype… with chopsticks, a pointed hat, and slanted slit eyes.”

“We find this caricature of ‘the Chinaman’ deeply hurtful, and have concerns about children’s exposure to it,” they wrote.

If the directors possessed comment sense, principle or the backbone God gave a guppy, they would have written back,

“We are sorry you cannot attend, and also that you are so enamored of political correctness grandstanding that you would unjustly insult Theodore Geisel, his work, his millions of fans, and this museum by your false and hysterical characterization. We do not engage in censorship here, nor do we accept presentist slurs on past art that involve retroactively applying modern sensibilities or hyper-sensitivities, to classic works that are decades old.”

There is nothing racially jarring about Geisel’s painting of a “Chinaman” except to someone already looking for offense. Dr. Seuss’ drawings can be fairly termed cartoons. The definition of a cartoon is “a simple drawing showing the features of its subjects in a humorously exaggerated way.”  What are these juvenile children book authors asserting…that all cartoons are racially insensitive? That only cartoon of non-whites are offensive?

Let’s look at the offensive figure again:

Tell me, Willems, Curato and  Yee, is that drawing of an Asian more grotesque and insulting than this drawing of a bald, white, middle-aged man?

I’ve missed it: have social justice warriors been protesting “The Simpsons”? No? Not even Apu, the Indian immigrant Springfield resident—Wait! Isn’t the Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield?–who has the stereotypical ethnic occupation of a convenience food proprietor (Full disclosure: my local 7-11 is owned by an Indian American)? You know, this guy?

Children love “The Simpsons.” So do adults. It’s a cultural touchstone. If that drawing of a smiling Asian is so horrendous, why aren’t the authors attacking Homer, Marge and Bart?

Here is why: because they won’t get cheap publicity out of it, pats on the back from deranged social justice warriors, and a sense of power. They would just have the stressful experience of the producers nd Fox telling them that they are ridiculous, and to go to hell. For the caricatures in “The Simpsons” are wholly benign, just as Dr. Seuss’s “Chinaman.”

By the way, here’s The Simpsons’ version of me:

Oddly, I am not “deeply hurt.” But I digress..

Now, class, is this image offensive to the three authors?

It’s a Chinese man in a pointy hat! See, they sometimes wear pointy hats!

How about this ancient Chinese drawing…

…showing a Chinese woman using chopsticks? Now I can  testify that Asians really do use chopsticks, because they make me fell like a clumsy idiot every time I’m in a Chinese or Japanese restaurant. This drawing was offensive, was it? I also notice that the Chinese artist drew the Chinese woman with slanted eyes. Maybe not quite as “slitty” as Dr, Seuss’s cartoon, but this guy definitely has slitty eyes, you have to admit. (And isn’t the term “slitty eyes” itself offensive?)

 

Let’s summarize, then: Chinese artists drew Chinese people using chopsticks, showing them with slanted  eyes, and real Chinese in fact wear pointy hats on occasion. That leaves the rice: is it Dr. Seuss’s portrayal of the rice that’s so offensive and stereotypical? When that drawing was made in 1937, a study had found that in some regions of China rice was consumed at every meal, and that adult males ate as much as 485 pounds of rice per year.

Is a cartoon of a white man eating a pizza offensive and stereotypical, or does it have to be an Italian man eating the pizza? Or does a cartoon of an Italian man have to be eating spaghetti for it to be a jarring stereotype? I wish the social justice warriors would hurry up and publish their rule book so we could get all this straight. Of course, the rule book would be 187,000 pages or so and have to be revised daily.

Normal Americans, meanwhile, understand the cartoon art form, recognize that features are exaggerated, and thus do not take drawings like those by Dr. Seuss (or Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons) as literal or malicious. For example, they know, even at a young age, that this does not look like a cat and isn’t offensive to cats…

The figure that these three ridiculous writers used to showboat their uber-sensitivity was, in fact, inoffensive, and unjustly attacked.

These people and the ideological, censorious and thought-constricting bullies they hang out with are menaces. Given their way, they will poison culture, creativity, humor, joy and fun in American society, unless attempts like the attack on Dr. Seuss are foiled by responsible adults. Willems, Curato and  Yee should have been publicly refuted, slapped down, and ridiculed coast to coast, beginning at the Dr. Seuss Museum. Instead, these efforts, which are offensive to our culture, unlike the imaginary offense of Dr. Seuss’s drawing to another culture, were once again allowed to prevail by lazy, conflict- averse cowards.

Sometimes our ethical duty to confront means taking up arms in the culture wars. This was one of those times.

 

49 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Humor and Satire, Literature, Race

49 responses to “Ethics Dunce: The Dr. Seuss Museum

  1. Eternal optometrist

    I was reading an article about John Inman, the great British actor, was received some criticism for how he used stereotypes to portray his homosexual character, mr. Humphries. His response was something to the effect, how am I supposed to play him, as a bus driver wearing work boots?

  2. Cleophus

    A white man eating pizza is cultural appropriation. An Italian eating pizza is is a stereotype. The only possible solution is nobody draws anything.

    Just kidding. The rule actually is nonWhites can draw anything but Whites may draw nothing. Because the white man is uniquely evil in the universe.

  3. Other Bill

    I wonder whether these three humorless souls wanted the Asian figure excised because he looks so benignly happy. Morons. And yes, menace is the right word to describe these people and their bizarre and destructive project.

  4. ”why aren’t the authors attacking Homer, Marge and Bart?”

    Careful what you ask for, “The Simpsons” is a veritable treasure trove of targets for the sensitivities of the aspiring SJW’s manufactured offense!

    Just the low-hanging fruit: what about the late “Fat Tony,” a corpulent Italian unflatteringly depicted as “connected.” His late wife Anna Maria? “whacked of natural causes.”

    Or Snowball V; a coincidence that a typically conniving, devious, evil feline happens to be Black? I think not!

    Maggie? Possessing the disparagingly derogatory (and hurtful!) characteristics of dependency: dressed in swaddling and constantly sucking on a nippie.

    • Pennagain

      I always thought the Simpson family just had a bad case of contagious genetic jaundice (inherited via Homer’s family’s terrible diet) that spread through the city of Springfield –Who knows! I’m old enough to remember when Smithers was black.

  5. J. Houghton

    My wife and I just returned from a month long visit to the People’s Republic of China and thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality and culture we found everywhere from Shanghai to Kunming to xi’an to Beijing. Chinese people like to eat, love their families, enjoy a good time and are extremely friendly.

    Indeed, Chinese people both exurbanites and rural people still wear the pointed hats shown in the cartoon in considerable numbers. (They also wear a lot of Chicago Bears, LA Lakers, Chicago Cubs, and I heart NY hats.) We saw the pointed hats everywhere being worn by both young and older people. They are very practical providing both good ventilation and shade for the entire face area.

    We also saw a lot of people using chop sticks and indeed had to learn to perfect our technique in using them quickly or else go hungry. Many if not most of the smaller eateries… and there are zillions of them everywhere… don’t even have anything available resembling western eating utensils. Stereotyping? I think not. Chinese people from the PRC look a lot like Asian Americans. They are just like us… only different. Go figure!

  6. KBG

    Did you read about the public school librarian in Cambridge, MA who refused a gift of books from Mrs Trump because it included The Cat in the Hat. According to the librarian, the Cat is a character in black face.

  7. Rich in CT

    I red about this on the website of my local paper. They described it solely as a racially insensitive mural, and provided illustrative images of only the OUTSIDE of the building. The Hartford Courant NEVER described or showed the image. They either knew that it was a ridiculous story and needed to protect the asshole artists – or they are deranged enough to believe the image is too offensive to show in a public. I had to visit at least four different websites to find the damn imagine!

    I got annoyed at few more that did show the image, because I thought they were showing some unrelated clip. My jaw dropped when I realized the above imagine was the ‘offensive’ one censored by the Courant. I am deeply troubled that the nation’s oldest newspaper, and only one city south of mister Suesse’s hometown is run by censorious race-baiting editors willing to burn down Suesse’s reputation. Oh the places you’ll go over a 250 year history….

  8. Marlene

    I’m a lifelong devotee to Dr. Seuss; he helped teach me to read, I entertain small children (and adults) by reciting Fox in Socks, and my mother still has the entirety of Horton Hatches an Egg completely memorized, though she has not had to use it to soothe any of her children for 20+ years. Neat party trick, though.

    I’m also a leftist with ideologies all over the place: borderline social democrat gun owner who hates extreme SJWs for making me sympathetic towards social/political groups I wouldn’t want to touch with a ten foot pole…

    But I digress. The truth is that Dr. Seuss was complicated; many of his WWII drawings incorporated what I feel we should consider offensive stereotypes, yet they contained scathing condemnations of fascism, nazism and isolationism for which he’s to be celebrated. The stereotypes used in his early works and propaganda are all the more intriguing and meaningful to me when I consider his personal evolution; the man’s true genius is evident in his ability to convey the shift in his ideology through the tale of an elephant respecting and protecting a person, no matter how small (man, Horton is deep). Didn’t Dr. Seuss do what we would expect anyone with racial biases to do? He realized his misguided philosophy, accepted his past, and changed his behavior? Shame on other authors, cartoonists and librarians for not seeing that. They should have been having THAT discussion instead of just kowtowing. It would have been a brilliant history lesson and insightful conversation for all attendees, young and old, which is what I find so saddening about this culture of oversensitivity. Just get rid of the things causing offense on demand without discussion which could enlighten and actively engage the audience…we’ll end up a civilization of idealogues refusing to study history and will never debate one another. How dull!

    I realize your post wasn’t inherently about Dr. Seuss (and that I speak of him as though his name really is Dr. Seuss and that he’s still alive. To me he is eternal.) but he is a bit of a hot button topic for me. This Seuss fan is faithful, one hundred percent!

    • The WWII drawings are a canard. I’m shocked it is even mentioned. It was a World War. We were killing Japanese. Vilifying an enemy and denying their humanity is standard, effective propaganda. We’re killing them and people are angry at Dr. Seuss for drawing cartoons of them looking like apes? The idea is to create hate. That’s not wrong during wartime. Nice is off the table. Holding wartime denigration of the enemy against Geisel is as ridiculous now as it would have been then. He was doing his job as part of the war effort. Nothing complicated about it.

      • Marlene

        I don’t hold hold his WWII political drawings against him or even consider them distasteful; they’re a product of the war and a piece of history. Of course they’re stereotypical with tinges of racism. It’s propoganda with a clear and reasonable historical context. Instead of “complicated” I should have perhaps said “complex?” The point which I clearly did not articulate well is that there is a rich background that the academics behind the museum could have, well, discussed. The context of the drawing, the fact that any cartoon can be construed as stereotypical and offensive as you pointed out, the greater political world of Dr. Seuss beyond one single image…it kills me that this is how we’re devolving. Instead of analyzing anything and providing education, we seem to stop at nothing to avoid causing even the most minorly perceived offense, even if it means erasing our own history bit by bit.

      • Isaac

        “Here ya go, slant eyes.” -Bugs Bunny

      • “Vilifying an enemy and denying their humanity is standard, effective propaganda.”

        Hounding the evil Hun was all the rage in WWI.

        • Killing them is OK, calling them names and making mean drawings of them is too much.

        • The heart of that negative, and false, characterization of Germans that began at that time (under Wilson, more or less?) has resulted in its extension to the present false-characterization of the ‘white man’ and his vilification. I think there is a direct correspondence. There you have an example of a propaganda narrative that jumped off its rails and went about on its own, doing tremendous harm.

          One aspect of revisionism, as I understand revisionism, is to go back over all that false-characterization-ground and to see the truth and tell the truth. If you kill the heart of Europe, you kill the European body (is how I would put it).

          To the degree that a national narrative (of the US or of other European countries) is bound-up in false characterizations, and when they persist, is the degree that people are induced not to see well and clearly. Lies and mistruths work ultimately against our own selves.

          • You privy to the German translation of Schlecht?

            https://www.dict.cc/?s=schlecht

            I’d prefer what you discover not transgress on my otherwise sterling reputation…

            • Schlecht Name meaning: nickname for a straightforward person, from Middle High German, Old High German sleht ‘direct’, ‘natural’ (though it later came to mean ‘defective’, ‘bad’). habitational name from any of various minor places so named, for example in Mecklenburg and the Upper Palatinate, from Old High German sleht in the sense ‘flat’.
              _______________________

              That’s rather curious. I wonder when the meaning shifted? In any case, it mirrors how Germany was vilified.

  9. Wayne

    The Simpsons cartoon figure looks just like you Jack. Anyway, yes the Chinese still use chopsticks although they have long since given up the pointy hats. These pc jerks push their “I’m offended” card beyond all reasonable limits. I’d like to see a Simpson cartoon about them!

    • Wayne

      I stand corrected about the pointy hats although I haven’t seen any in Orange County or LA.

      • Pennagain

        You see them in Florida on the beach worn by zaftig women over 45. Best way to ventilate the scalp on a hot day, prevent sunburn, cataracts, skin cancer and unsightly wrinkles on the face and neck.

        p.s. Appropriating Yiddish is probably a linguistic crime, but, like the Greek hubris it not only says more in one word than ten in English but those ten words would be thoroughly, stereotypically insulting instead of complimentary. This way it’s just … exotic. To those who don’t like it: tough merde

  10. Jack, are you really like that or is that just how you’re drawn?

    • First time anyone has compared me to Jessica Rabbit in any way, shape or form.

      • That time has yet to come then…

        I have little experience with films, though I am watching many more, and almost zero experience with TV either of the US or Venezuela or anywhere. But I did see a chance to reference a movie that dealt with caricature so I took it!

        However I have not ever watched that film but only have seen portions on YouTube. Somewhere, I don’t remember where, something I read not so long ago used that line: ‘I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way’.

        But I meant it in the sense of Were you happy with their caricature of you?

        (Though I find some of the Simpsons situations comic I have only seen a very limited number of them and have never watched a full program. But the Simpsons are very very popular in South America.)

        • Really? I was sure that was your intent with a “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” reference?, the most famous line in the film, a personal fave:

          • It was my intent to refer to that clip (which I had seen before) but not to compare you with that caricature. (I cannot see how it would fit to anything you do or say).

            I have been thinking about caricature and I think it might be a modern disease of the mind. For example, I was just reading the Times and an article about Richard Spencer going back to Charlottesville and, of course, they employ a caricature to label him: neo-Nazi and white supremicist. Because these are inaccurate labels they mislead everyone who accepts them. I know his thought pretty well and though I am sure it would be definitely offensive to some it is quite different from what people say it is (their caricature).

            But since it seems that everyone uses caricatures these days — simplistic reductions of a cartoon sort — it causes us not to really see what is before our eyes. If we fall prey to the caricature we have been tricked or deceived, and the other alternative is that we have opted to participate in the deception. In order to really understand something it has to be seen free of bias and ideological imposition. I am reminded of what an old friend said when I told her I had read Robert Bork’s book (Slouching). All she did was to say he was (she literally said this) ‘an evil man and a Nazi’. That caused many things to go spinning inside me…

            My view — I have been expressing it lately and it has only gotten silence (the worst commentary!) — is that there is a relationship between war-propaganda and the rise of a caricatured way of perceiving people and events. People — even thoughtful and educated people — seem to more and more rely on caricatures of reality and therefor not really to see it, nor underdtand more really, more truthfully, what is going on and why.

            I would certainly critique the prevalence of these cartoons like Simpsons which, though funny at times, distort perception. In Latin America, where so few do any thinking at all, the rhetorical caricature has a bad effect, generally. The domain of the cartoon — even Dr Suess — is not and cannot be anything but a questionable rhetorical domain. But some people on this thread seem to want to elevate him, as people do, into some sort of Sage.

  11. Steve-O-in-NJ

    Nomination for victim of pathetic ethics: the NYPD, which is currently keeping 24 hour a day watch on the Columbus statues in NYC, lest someone try to vandalize them before Columbus day. I said we were headed for Belfast 1974, and here we are. Actually the destruction of Nelson’s Pillar was in Dublin (long after the Republic of Ireland was established) but it works on the same principle.

    • But would you not see it possible to support and stand behind the destruction of that pillar monument if it served Irish nationalism?

      Is there not more of a comparison to be drawn between that destruction of the Pillar and American revolutionary will?

      The progressive will to take down statues is simple on the face, more complex when one looks into it. On one hand it is a form of nationalism insofar as to remove the monuments cements a specific aspect of American nationalist ideology; but on the other a movement toward establishing a mono-culture and doing away with problematic ‘speech’.

      Is there not a better historical parallel that one can refer to?

      • You’re a strange one, Alizia.

        • Because of some opinion I just expressed? I do not mind critique, if I underdstand it.

          If you had to define what is occurring in America right now that is leading to the division and disunity, how would you encapsulate it?

          • Nothing that substantive. I don’t understand deliberately evoking a line from a movie uttered by a busty cartoon woman and saying it was not your intent to evoke a comparison with that character. Makes no sense to me at all.

            • What you don’t understand is that my mind works differently. I was only focussed on the idea there: of characterization and caricature. It was an attempt to use a movie reference to be clever. Because you like films I thought you would appreciate it. I hope that makes more sense.

              I could probably critique some of your ideas. For example in the polarity within morality and ethicality. (I think only a moral person can be really ethical and arriving at a ‘moral person’ comes through different process than learning ethics). But I do not think that your entire concern could be caricatured, and I certainly would not (and not with Jessica Rabbit!)

              In fact it is your seriousness in regard to your topic and subject which I desire to emulate. Except that my field of interest is largely different. (My interest now is to investigate Thomism and this really is a very different metaphysics than what operates in our present).

              I am reminded that caricatures, if they are riduculing, are disrespectful. Like generalizations though they are useful. I can be and I am a little sarcastic — maybe insolent? — from time to time but I hope that I do not come across as disrespectful.

  12. Chris

    I expected to see a much more offensive drawing when I heard about this story. Though of course, even if it was offensive, the boycott would still be unethical. It’s a museum; its purpose is to document history, not sanitize it. The fact that there is nothing offensive about the image makes the authors’ choice to boycott, and the museum’s choice to capitulate, even more unethical.

  13. Is purging history a feature or a bug of the Left?

    • I think you are employing an unrealistic characterization. Because the Progressive American Left, in its popular, social-media manifestation, is not interested in purging history because their ‘progressivism’ and their values depend in some sense on the realities and the definitions they oppose. They exist, as activists, *in relation to* what they oppose. Those who desire to remove the monuments depend in a sense on the history which erected them. What is it then that they desire to do? I would suggest that they do not quite know themselves. It is not really a rational movement. It is emotional and *hysterical*. The monument just sits there, doing nothing, and for emotional-hysterical reasons some people decide that it represents a profound, living horror, a manifest cruelty. But there are likely many other minor ‘reasons’ why someone would rally to advocate for tearing them down. Social solidarity. The desire to be part of some meaningful movement. The desire to ‘be good’. It could also be that they have little better to do. But they are not erasing history. They seem rather to manifest themselves in reaction to history, and to history which is composed of events and meaning which they find intolerable.

      Everything that they do is really about the present. It is about *making a statement* and also appearing as an actor within a statement. For example when they tore down that one statue of the Confederate soldier. They then kicked it and stepped on it and probably did other things to. All display, all spectacle. Yet even in that it is very clear that it really is part of a power struggle. Because there are people who have sentimental or ideologial links to ‘the Lost Cause’ of the Confederate South and many things that it ‘stood for’ (whatever that means). They want to send a message to those people that their views and ideas are intolerable and, like the statues they tear down, are designated to be hated and despised. It is a value-rehearsal and they can do what they do (justify it to themselves) because they are absolutely certain of their position.

      Who resists the tearing down of the monuments? On the whole it is those people who have a link to those people, those places, that time. That is to say, people who have and hold ideas which in our present or intolerable. By definition you cannot and you do not tolerate what is intolerable! You have to drive it out. You have to drive it out in special social rehearsals which are similar in spirit to Chinese reindoctrination and mind-control camps. If a Tribunal established itself and asked the question: “What is your view on the removal of Confederate monuments?” in the present dispensation many ears would be carefully listening and, like in the trial of Jeanne d’Arc, a severe analysis would be carried out. And there would be discovered in you ‘inappropriate ideas’ that need to be ‘corrected’ and ‘modified’. Our present, especially as carried out in America (the most heavily propaganized country in the world as far as I know, and with the oldest institutions of social and thought-control), is terribly bound up in engineering thought and opinion. (Just notice that right here, just because I said this, I cause many people to become uncomfortable.)

      But I suggest that just as you (and many) can see what these left-progressives are up to, it is you just as much as them (or in some proportion thereof) who are also subject to this social hysteria and revisionism-spirit. To the degree that you have been subsumed into ‘The Nation’ and the national coercion-project, the degree that you also have been socially engineered and *coerced* to say certan things, see things in certain ways — it is in a similar degree that you too are manipulated and controlled. Just as the ‘progressives’ are wrapped up in and determined by their predicates and perspectives, so too are many others who do not define themselves as progressives of this sort. Maybe they read different material or tune-in to different channels. But my observation is that many of these people (Conservatives of the classic sort I guess I would call them) are also informed by, and controlled by, ideas and notions which determine their actions in the present. But instead of being ‘progressive activists’ and falling in with this List of Declarations, they simply have another one with differnet features.

      But what I have noticed is the lack of a critical perspective of the Nation and of the various ways that this Nation was brought into existence and what upholds it (speaking conceptually and ideologically). And I delberately contrast Nation against Republic. Just as some Progressives, emotionally and hysterically, sell-out the essential values of constitutionalism and act to pervert it, in other ways those who are Nationalists and ‘patriots’ through ideological positions and who cannot — rationally and upstandingly — critique the deletarious processes that have brought the Nation to this point (in deep moral trouble), they are all part-and-parcel of a similar *event*. The loss of the Republic.

      I do not see anything ‘getting better’ until things have more significantly unraveled. So many people are so bound up in lies, mistruths, biased understanding and willful mis-description that there is really no help that can be offered.

      The hard part, it seems to me, is arriving at a stance and a position, philosophically and politically, that is not merely the slightly right-of-center progressivism that defines ‘conservatism’ in the present.

      No need to respond to any part of this. I’ll take my beating psychically, through profound silence! 😉

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