Today is Dr. Theodore Geisel’s birthday. Better known to the world as Dr. Seuss, the author and illustrator of such classic children’s books as “The Cat in the Hat,” “Horton Hears A Who,” and my personal favorite, “Fox in Socks” because it drives my wife crazy, was born this day in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1904. Geisel, who used his middle name and his mother’s maiden name as his nom de plume, wrote 48 books (even some for adults). His work has now sold over 200 million copies and been translated into multiple languages. His style of verse and illustrating have been imitated and parodied countless times. Jesse Jackson even read “Green Eggs and Ham” on Saturday Night Live.
Nobody ever thought of Dr. Seuss books as “racist” until recent fads, events , cancel culture and The Great Stupid washed over the land. Well, OK, not “nobody.” Ethics Alarms had a post about the Seuss Museum in Springfield cutting a piece out of a Dr. Seuss mural because three prominent children’s authors who had been invited to attend the Children’s Literature Festival at the Museum threatened to boycott the event on the theory that the mural, painted to replicate a scene from Dr. Seuss’s first book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” was, they claimed, offensive. It had, said one of the grandstanding hysterics, a “jarring image” of a man with slanted eyes and a coolie’s hat using chopsticks to eat rice, because, apparently, Chinese people never wore such hats, don’t use chopsticks and hate rice. I wrote, while awarding the museum an Ethics Dunce designation (I’m thinking about adding a “Weenie of the Week”…what do you think?):
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?…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.
Well, silly me. I thought this was just a one-off moment of woke insanity: I have since learned that the Woke never sleep. In the post, I referenced “The Simpsons” and the fact that nobody had called for the elimination of Apu. Apu has since been cancelled as “racially insensitive.” The show also decreed that white voice actors can no longer portray black characters, so Dr. Hibbard has a new sound. Presumably “The Simpsons” will eventually seek a low IQ hick to voice “Cletis the Slack-Jawed Yokel” and a socially awkward MIT PhD. to do the voice of Prof. Frink.
Now Dr. Seuss’s drawings are under full attack. Two years ago, on the day after Geisel’s birthday (which is also “Read Across America Day” (to be accurate, the NEA re-named it “Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers” Day, because the NEA is an example of self-parody) in honor of Dr. Seuss and his positive impact on children, the progressive indoctrination group (I’m tired of pussy-footing around), published a magazine article accusing his books of perpetuating racial stereotypes and showing minorities in “subservient roles.” The article based its position on a study in which researchers examined 50 children’s books and 2,200 characters created by Dr. Seuss. “Their findings were shocking,” the article says.
Hardly. The researchers were all non-white, “from groups that were often on the receiving end of racial attacks in Geisel’s early work and in some of his children’s books,” and the objective of the study was to show that Dr. Seuss books are racist. This is called a researcher bias, so of course the researchers “proved” what they were looking for. The study was sponsored by that towering giant of social science research, St. Catherine University,
Last month, citing this single study, Loudon County schools in my Northern Virginia back yard announced that they were de-emphasizing the Dr. Seuss books, saying in part,
“Realizing that many schools continue to celebrate ‘Read Across America Day’ in partial recognition of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, it is important for us to be cognizant of research that may challenge our practice in this regard…As we become more culturally responsive and racially conscious, all building leaders should know that in recent years there has been research revealing radical undertones in the books written and the illustrations drawn by Dr. Seuss.”
Make that a single study by unknown researchers at a publicity-seeking college, but never mind. The current fashion dictates that calling the work of white authors and artists racist is inherently fair and appropriate because a habitually brutal white cop in Minnesota abused a black perp while be was resisting arrest and over-dosing on fentanyl. It’s completely reasonable.
Today, on Geisel’s birthday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press in a statement that it will stop publishing six of his books that “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong…because of racist and insensitive imagery.” The now banned books include “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!,” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.
“Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families,” the company said. This came from the organization that is supposedly protecting the legacy of Dr. Seuss. It’s funny: when I read the item about the Loudon schools, I searched my memory banks to recall my favorite Dr. Seuss books from my childhood. They were “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” and “If I Ran the Circus.”
I’m sure the last one slipped by the censors by accident and will be erased in due course.
I understand that once one accepts the premise that any works of art and literature from the past must be excised from the culture (to avoid upsetting those who have been conditioned or encouraged to be wounded and traumatized at anything that doesn’t comply with the narrowest and most restrictive ideological constraints) Dr. Seuss would become an inviting target. Here, for example, is a section from “If I Ran the Zoo”:
However, he logic behind banning a book with such caricatures dictates that all cartoons of human beings must be considered offensive. As I wrote in the earlier post, I am not offended by the grotesque caricature of the bald, white man that is Homer Simpson, and I assume that people of other races and nationalities have, as I do, sufficient perspective not to suffer self-esteem and paranoia attacks when they see caricatures of their race or ethnicity. I also expect them to be responsible parents and to teach their offspring not to look for reasons to be offended, because life stinks that way.
But, alas, this is The Great Stupid. The cancelling of Dr. Seuss is a small part of the Mao-like cultural destruction going on around us. The only hope is if Americans push back, eloquently and hard, while refusing to be intimidated by accusations of racism aimed at them.