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.