Dr. Seuss erasure may send us down the ‘slippery slope’
Dr. Seuss spent a lifetime teaching children about the importance of accepting those who were different, of avoiding bullying, of opening our arms to those who looked, sounded, and acted differently from people in our comfort zone. For children, he was a safe haven, a kindly guide through the often complicated, sometimes challenging, always memorable days of awakening.
And in spite of that, some of his books have now been placed on the “canceled list” thanks to pressure from the cultural left, which fears that little children will perceive the same racism in his fanciful illustrations as their triggered guardians have now done.
Some of the illustrations in the six books that the Seuss foundation has decided to throw down the memory hole contained pictures that might, if you stretch the point, make some adults uncomfortable, including coloring some Asian characters in bright yellow.
But it is hard to believe that children would be perceptive enough (translated as “looking for racism enough”) to be offended by what are, essentially, cartoon characters. And this idea that we need to scrub old texts to make sure that even the most delicate soupcon of offensive non-P.C. material must be hidden is the quiet second-cousin of censorship.
To put it another way, trying to make sure that nothing offends anyone ever at any given time is assuring that there will never be any authentic, original, important, suggestive, intriguing, thought-provoking material produced. It will all be “nice.” It will all be uniform. It will all be safe, although not the safety that children really deserve because it will fool them into thinking that the world is filled with sunshine and lollipops.
It isn’t. Dr. Seuss knew that, especially after his experience with war, and was attempting in his own way to prepare children for the cruelties of the world, and equip them with tools to fight them.
That’s one of the reasons this Orwellian attempt to erase his work is so disturbing. You can argue that it’s only six books out of hundreds in a lifetime of achievement, but we are only at the beginning. Once you start down that path, you tend to accelerate, not act with caution.
So I expect we’ll see some more “kindler, gentler editing” along these lines in the near future:
“Horton Hears a Who” will be labeled “ableist,” as soon as they figure out that deaf children will be offended.
“The Cat in the Hat” will be labeled “classist” by those who are upset that this particular cat has a hat. What about kids without enough money for accessories? Nice way to shame them.
“Oh the Places You’ll Go” will be deemed “xenophobic,” since there’s that subtle suggestion of, you know, deporting kids.
“The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” will be found to be borderline bigoted. I mean, just “assuming” that green kids are more inclined to a life of crime than kids of other colors is repellent. What about teal blue munchkins?
“Green Eggs And Ham?” How dare they? What about vegan kids? Trigger, much?
“Sam I Am.” Transphobic. I mean, what if Sam identifies as a “they?” Sam They Are is much more inclusive.
Go ahead and laugh. The tears can wait their turn.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.