Wed, 03/10/2021 - 11:24am admin
Comments on Cancel Culture and the Conservative Response
Amanda Mendez, Publisher
We need to talk about Dr. Seuss. And we need to talk about the conservative response. First, in case you’re out of the loop, I’ll provide the basic facts of the story. A publisher who owns the rights to the Dr. Seuss catalogue announced they would cease publication of six titles for what they deemed offensive content. That is, a privately owned company made a decision according to their values about what to do with their property. The titles are 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.
Then, President Joe Biden removed all mention of Dr. Seuss from his Read Across America Day proclamation. This was a departure from the last several years, as evidenced by a viral photo of Michelle Obama reading Dr. Seuss to a group of children during her husband’s presidency. Biden’s omission was certainly politically motivated virtue signaling. The New York Post mentioned “racial undertones” as the reason for the decision. There have been other accusations that “The Cat in the Hat” is an offensive homage to blackface minstrel shows.
I looked up the so-called offensive images to see for myself what the uproar was about. I don’t have the rights to those images and cannot print them here, but if you have any opinions at all about the Dr. Seuss drama, I encourage you to look them up online. If you don’t have a way to get online, I invite you to stop by the news office, and I’ll show them to you myself.
Personally, I am not offended by the images. They are illustrations that perpetuate racial stereotypes, specifically those of Asian and Inuit people. From the thin, drooping moustaches and barely-visible eye slits to the parkas and use of the word Eskimo, I recognize these images to belong to a different zeitgeist, a bygone time. I understand how and why they might be deemed offensive to modern thinking.
I abhor cancel culture, especially with regard to historic or classic works of fiction. Consider the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Plagued with tone-deaf depictions of Native Americans, the series at one point truly and explicitly does feature a minstrel show. My kids will still read these books. They will still watch the classic TV series. Despite the obviously outdated and offensive themes, these books do not lose their value. They remain a gripping and stirring account of early pioneer life, a workaday window into a chapter of American history that, like all times and places, had its own set of values and cultural mores.
I feel much the same way about Dr. Seuss as I do about the Little House books. In the first place, the illustrations in his books are far from being representative art. They are highly stylized and fanciful. I see no reason why a child who has never been exposed to racial stereotypes would recognize those images as offensive. Besides, I would consider myself a poor parent if exposure through literature to outdated themes somehow replaced the hours and days and years I spend with my children trying to instill them with values I hold dear. Values which include respecting people of all races.
The Dr. Seuss catalogue is deep and wide, and has been the pathway to a love of reading for generations of children. That distinction alone is worth preserving.
Now, the response that I see from my fellow conservatives in the forms of memes, jokes, essays, and news coverage has been a bit extreme. Cancel culture is annoying, but for every liberal acquaintance expressing offense at the books, I saw ten conservative friends raising a cacophony in a very emotionally-driven way. I saw Dr. Seuss-style poems about Biden cancelling Dr. Seuss, lots of comparisons to the Mr. Potato Head controversy, and ironically, many, many mentions of how easily triggered and offended the ‘liberal snowflakes’ are.
Conservatives, we can, and we must, do better. It is certainly jarring to see someone try to change a nostalgic cultural touchstone, but petulant posts on the internet are not going to save it.
Take action instead. The complete works of Dr Seuss will likely survive this modern-day book burning. Amazon prices for these books--those that are not already sold out--are now in the hundreds of dollars.
Engage in debate online if you must, but remember, expressing outrage from behind your computer screen is not enough. Read Dr. Seuss to your kids and grandkids if you think it has value. Donate a bunch of books to the library. Better yet, volunteer to read them at a story hour. In the rising tide of progressive culture, the only way we will preserve conservative values is to live them out. Let those values live loudly in you.