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Defending Dr. Suess: A Cautionary Tale Of Cancellation

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Up Next: Book Burning?

I am cancel culture. Cancel culture I am. That cancel culture! That cancel culture! I do not like that cancel culture! If you haven’t heard, Dr. Seuss Enterprises has announced that it will no longer publish six children’s books penned by the famous author with the idea that, “These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” Of course, the deceased author had no say in the matter, and the executive decision was rendered by the company founded by Seuss’ family. Don’t think for a second that this is a trivial matter. This is dangerous stuff and it’s setting a bad precedent in censorship. The next thing you know, “fireman” will be going around burning every book they deem inappropriate; Bradbury warned us about literary censorship, way back in the early 1950’s, when Fahrenheit 451 was first published. I understand the argument that the illustrations are offensive to some people, and I’ll touch on that later. However, cancelling production of Dr. Suess novels with “offensive” imagery will not affect the continuance of racism...at all!

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Overreaching

Are you of the belief that one can find something offensive if they reach hard enough? This whole ploy to cancel Dr. Suess books seems like virtue signaling or an attempt to win the prize of “most progressive”. I would bet the farm that kids aren't thinking about the societal repercussions of portraying a racial group in a stereotypical way, when they’re reading Suess’ books. The alleged racist depictions must be benign, because I haven’t heard a single case of a racist who has cited “If I Ran the Zoo” as the catalyst for their bigoted views. I’m surprised people don’t pull a hamstring with all the reaching they do. It’s such an easy way to receive plaudits and praise----taking a stand on such frivolous issues. It’s a race to see who can cleverly but disingenuously paint people and institutions as nefarious and bigoted. I’d refer to these people as “misguided iconoclasts”. They can’t see the forest for the trees, particularly with Dr. Suess, who has provided millions of children with some of the most fun and fantastical books in history. A Dr. Suess book is the ‘first book’ for millions of kids across the globe, so doesn’t he deserve a defense? The point is, that there’s much more to the man than potentially offensive doodles he drew in a few of his books. So let me draw it out for you!


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A True Patriot

Theodor Suess Geisel was born in my home-state of Massachusetts in a large city called Springfield. A prolific writer, Geisel worked his way up to editor-in-chief of the school newspaper at Ivy League, Dartmouth College. After freelancing for awhile, Geisel decided to directly help support the war effort and began by drawing posters for the Treasury Department and the War Production Board, around the year 1942. In 1943, Geisel joined the Army as a Captain and was commander of the Animation Department of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces, where he wrote insightful films such as Your Job in Germany, a 1945 propaganda film about peace in Europe after World War II, Our Job in Japan, and the Private Snafu series of adult army training films. For his contributions, Geisel was awarded the Legion of Merit, and should be lauded for doing his part to help win the war.


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Doctor Is Here To Help

In May of ‘54, "Life" magazine published a report on illiteracy among school children, and concluded that the kids were not learning how to read because the books were boring. Don’t worry, this where our good doctor steps in and saves the day! As a result of the findings, the director of the education division at the popular publishing company “Houghton Mifflin” enlisted the services of Dr. Suess, and challenged him to “bring back a book children can’t put down”. Nine months later, Dr. Suess came back with a draft of “The Cat in the Hat” , one of the most famous pieces of children’s literature ever produced. In his later years he received numerous awards, including a special Pulitzer Prize for his lasting and substantial contributions to early education.


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Parting Thoughts


Now, I won’t sit here and tell you you’re wrong if you feel offended by the Suess’ drawings in a few of his books. Clearly, these images are upsetting to enough people to create a national dialogue. I’ll leave you with this question, however, and that is “Do we have to cancel the books entirely?” I’m baffled as to why the publisher, Harper Collins, never brought up the idea of alteration or removal! Just take out the drawings entirely, or alter them to a less antiquated depiction of the offended racial group. No, instead they jump the gun and do away with six of his books, for good.This has got to stop. I used to hear a phrase that went something like,”It’s not good karma to keep people from getting a job.” I’d take it a step further and add,”It’s never a good idea to go out of your way to fire or cancel someone.” I once believed these things to be true, but as of late I’m coming to realize these ideas carry less and less weight. Everyone’s so ancy to take a flamethrower to somebody’ legacy or actively pursue their removal from a job. The thing is, there’s two sides to every story, and the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. I’m not for this trend I’m seeing where a person is assumed guilty before proven innocent. Whatever happened to the idea of good outweighing the bad? People are imperfect, and that fact will never change. Human beings are flawed by nature and they’re bound to make mistakes. That sounds like a novel concept, but the “cancelers” and ‘firemen” can’t grasp it for some reason...People evolve--grow--learn from life experiences; we can’t be so quick to cast them asunder.


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