Thankful Thursday IV – That Controversial “Doctor”

Well I’ll wander into the fray today, because this Thursday I’m thankful for Dr. Seuss. Or, the works of Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, during this week in which his birthday fell.

The children’s author and illustrator has been much in the news of late, yet another example of how badly divided this country is. In case you hadn’t noticed, the publisher in charge of his body of work recently announced it was going to stop printing six of his titles, including the popular And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street, because some of his illustrations seemed a little racist and out of step with today’s norms. Predictably, many Republicans are frothing at the mouth and yelling “censorship”, failing to note that it was a commercial decision made by a publisher rather than an act of government restriction. Likewise, some of the far-left faction of the Democrats say that doesn’t go nearly far enough and wouldn’t be happy until every reference to Seuss is obliterated from our culture. Which I suppose is a convenient way for both to distract from the fact that Iran seems to be taunting the U.S. in the Middle East at risk of provoking a war and that over 1000 people are still dying from Covid every day in our land.

Geisel fashioned a long and very successful career penning books written for kids through the middle part of the last century. Some, like Green Eggs and Ham and How the Grinch Stole Christmas became cultural cornerstones as well as rites of passage for new parents teaching their young ones. Something over half a billion copies of his works have been printed through the years.

It’s said that Geisel wasn’t that fond of having little children around in real life. But he exhibited a brilliance unsurpassed at knowing what would appeal to them and he delivered that time and time again with his stories. A cat in a hat? Green eggs and ham, Sam? There’s not a three year old in existence who doesn’t giggle at the thought – especially if its accompanied by the zany cartoon illustrations the “Doctor” was known for.

For me, Seuss was “the man” when I was that age. I was lucky to have parents who surrounded me and my brother with a lot of books as kids, but none delighted me quite like the rhyming, goofy stories about Sam-I-Am, the Cat in the Hat, The Grinch and little Cindy Lou Who, or Horton who heard a Who. I looked at the books time and time again, and soon with a little help could read them all by myself. From there, I never looked back…unless it was Christmas time and time to watch the TV version of The Grinch, a beloved holiday tradition I try to keep to this day even as my hair gets grayer. In later years, I went on to work briefly in the conservation field and was able to at times delight campers young and old alike by playing the film of The Lorax, another Seuss story telling of the little creature who tried to save the truffula trees from the industrialist Onceler. Like many of his best works it delivered a strong and worthwhile moral in the guise of a children’s cartoon.

So, yes, Dr. Seuss may not have been perfect and his books were products of his time (as any work of art is ultimately.) But few things made me happier as a kid and now, as I sit by a bookcase full of titles of all sorts, including a couple of ones I wrote myself, I thank him for getting me to know the magic of reading. I don’t know what I’d be doing if not for him… but I doubt I’d be here writing my thoughts for you, dear readers.

15 Replies to “Thankful Thursday IV – That Controversial “Doctor””

  1. I’m not usually on the side with the Republicans…but with this I am (but NO it had nothing to do with the government). It isn’t about Dr Seuss to me Dave. It’s about this medieval gang mentality of people going around trying to get rid of this and that. If something offends you…don’t watch it…it’s that damn simple. They want NO ONE to watch, listen, or read it. Whatever they deem bad…then that is it.

    I’m smart enough to know on my own what is bad and what is good. I don’t need nor want some social watchdogs trying to take that choice away.

    They just didn’t decide to do this out of the blue…no they were leaned on by these groups…Just like with Gone With The Wind…sales went through the roof when this happened.

    Where does it end? Right now people are scared to say anything with the fear of being bullied on Facebook or Twitter. Can you imagine being a comedian now? Let’s go back in history and try to find something else we can wipe.

    When I read, watch, or listen to something…if it’s something from the 50s…I watch, read, or listen with my sensibilities in the 50s…realizing that is when it was made. They cannot hold everything up to the social norm of 2021. If they are unable to do that…then don’t watch anything before 2019.

    Sorry Dave for the novel…this subject hit a button. And it’s not easy to push my buttons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I agree with you, although the politicians should have more important things to gripe about or work on. I think the publisher is wrong and am glad his book sales have jumped due to the “notoriety”. One tweet I saw not long ago said it all : “how the $@^* did the generation raised on ‘South Park’ and ‘Family Guy’ get so sensitive about everything?”.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That last sentence says everything! How…just how did this happen. Even Bill Maher who is a liberal is over this. He actually blamed political correctness for Trump being voted in… I think that is oversimplifying it but it has a kernel of truth.

        Like

      2. One wonders what they think of “Token” on south Park. The whole PC movement was a part of what resulted in Trump winning I think… I said a few years back I thought the Olympian Jenner probably put Donald in the White House by suddenly deciding he was no longer Bruce the Man but Caitlyn the woman… I think that pushed a lot of people over the edge in what they would stand for or agree to. It’s a message some in the Democrats (and foreign equivalents) need to learn – for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Moderation and a slow shifting of what’s acceptible is the way to go.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You are so right. There is a reaction to every action. Some people get so fed up that they go the opposite way of PC just to piss everyone off. They end up making what ever they target more popular many of the times.

        I won’t say they make racists but they push racist actions at times. I’ve searched WP with Dr Suess and other keywords…I found one person out of 10 posts that were happy it happened…and she was not well liked.

        This will have to end at some point. Thats the problem Dave…moderation is not in vogue right now…it’s extremism and that is a dangerous thing on both sides.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Moderation and pragmatism are two of the most important concepts in terms of getting things done and improving situations, but both are sadly also largely products of the past.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I don’t see any one person “uniting” everyone…it’s gotta be a group effort. Dave it really makes me dislike social media…of course that is only a tool…but a huge one.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Have either of you read, “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean? I love this quote from it:
    [p. 86 Peggy Murphy, who manages Collection Services, started her library career as a teenager in Mount Vernon, New York, at a time when the head librarian summoned clerks using the kind of metal clicker now most often used to train dogs. Each clerk was summoned by his or her unique click pattern. Murphy’s was two short clicks. The books that the head librarian in Mount Vern deemed ‘dangerous’ – this is, sexual – were shelved in a locked metal cage in the basement of the library. Baudelaire, Balzac, and Masters and Johnson were there, behind bars. Somehow, Murphy figured out where the key to the cage was stored, and during her breaks, she sneaked in and read. By the time she graduated from high school, she had managed to read every single one of the caged books. ‘It broadened by worldview,’ she likes to say.] Take it away and you make people want it all the more. I wouldn’t be surprised if the people owning copyrights to Seuss’ works wasn’t behind the whole thing!

    I don’t think books should be censored. That’s different than publishers choosing which books to keep publishing. In the now of electronic files of all kinds, all literature becomes immortal — unless we lose electricity. That’s why I keep my hard copies. I also believe that parents have both a right and a responsibility with what they choose to read to their children — and grandchildren. With Dr. Seuss and my upcoming experience of being a grandparent, I wouldn’t hesitate to read those favorites I read to my sons when they were little: Dr. Seuss’ ABC (it taught them the alphabet!), The Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish Green Fish Blue Fish, Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hatches the Egg (which I can still recite — with voice characterization! — large sections of from memory,) and of course The Lorax. That said, I acknowledge that Seuss was a Nazi sympathizing racist fuck. Most things in this world exist in varying shades of grey (yin-yang, anyone?) and I’m ok with that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d never heard of The Library Book, but sounds interesting. Seuss, or Geisel, was definitely a product of his times, but I think he promoted unity more than divisiveness or racism… look at his story “The Sneetches” that Max profiled not long ago. But definitely, most things and people are shades of gray, like you say… one of the big problems in this world right now is too few can recognize that and want to classify simply as one extreme or the other.
      I love reading books – physical – much more than same text on screen. Plus, while by and large I’d say there’s enough backup and such on the internet, I don’t entirely trust electronic means of storing records for eternity…technology can change too quickly, servers or other hardware eventually burn out and not have everything backed up and so on.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Way back before this latest hoopla, I’d heard or seen statements about his racism and was shocked by the thought of it, but hard to ignore the evidence. He, probably more than most, understand that the first step in harming someone is to dehumanize them and that’s what he did with his illustrations.

        I’m totally in agreement with preferring hard copy rather than digital and I have have most books in hard copy. Before I would refuse to try to read an e-book, but as time has gone on I’ve been not only reading e-books but buying e-books. At my old job with the court we were transitioning to a completely paperless system. The idea of court orders being not only electronic but amendable at-will scares the living hell out of me. Have you seen the movie, “Brazil” and/or read “1984”? It’s EXACTLY like that. And it’s now. Judges don’t even sign their orders by hand anymore. Anyone with access — i.e. judges secretary, any clerical person who processes orders, etc. — can stamp any document with a judge signature. Orders are easily manipulated by anyone! Yes there is a “history” of who did what to it in the system, but once you’ve done whatever to it, you can print it out and there it is, just the way you want it for the moment.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve read 1984 a few times, most recently with the kiddo about 3 years back. Hard not to see signs of it occurring especially with the then-president’s outright denial of so many facts.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I always enjoy getting comments on my posts, and don’t mind when people have a different viewpoint. That’s essentially what I was saying about Gladwell and his works, they encourage one to think for themselves and look at things from different angles.

      Liked by 1 person

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