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Why Dr. Seuss matters

It is precisely the wholesomeness and remarkably wide popularity of Dr. Seuss that makes him a likely and effective target of the woke movement.

Theodore Geisel at work on a drawing of the Grinch for "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" in 1957. (Wikipedia)

It is hard to keep up with the cancellations these days, but for various reasons the news of Dr. Seuss struck a nerve. The Associated Press reported this week that six Dr. Seuss books “including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo — will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery.” School districts “across the country have also moved away from Dr. Seuss,” the AP reported, with one school district in Virginia referencing how recent “research” has “revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss…” And the Wall Street Journal now reports that Ebay is “sweeping” its site in order to delist the offending books.

Meanwhile, President Biden deemed Dr. Seuss to be unmentionable on Read Across America Day on March 2—a day intentionally celebrated on the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991). A USA Today story couched the absence of Dr. Seuss in Biden’s proclamation in the most benign terms possible: “The NEA has pivoted from popular children’s author Dr. Seuss to a focus on diverse children’s books.”

And then there is the news that Mr. Potato Head will no longer be a “mister”, but will instead answer to the “gender-neutral” name “Potato Head.” Hasbro, which introduced the toy in 1952, says it is “making sure all feel welcome in the Potato Head world by officially dropping the Mr. from the Mr. Potato Head brand name and logo to promote gender equality and inclusion…”

There is something absurd about these news stories that cuts both right and left. That a classic children’s toy must conform to gender ideology or that a beloved children’s author must have his legacy clouded with racism strikes conservatives as both ridiculous and merciless. Their response in protest is then portrayed by those on the Left as unserious fear-mongers frothing in rage about a toy and a mere six books being removed from the shelves.

We all know that there is far more going on. But to see that we need context. For one thing, it is not merely the removal of six books; there will now be a perpetual cloud over one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time. It is a cloud that will, with time, make him and all of his work less and less socially acceptable. Never mind the many wonderful, character-building lessons in Dr. Seuss books, including the message of The Sneetches, which taught millions of children over the decades about the evils of racism in a simple and compelling way.

Furthermore, it is not just Dr. Seuss alone but increasingly an entire canon of cultural history that is literally or metaphorically being vandalized and removed for the sake of removing and rejecting parts of our history from a collective cultural memory. Abraham Lincoln and George Washington are on the chopping block—but it is not they who are the target so much as the unifying narrative they represent. Also targeted have been statues of beloved Saints and even of Jesus and Mary. However, it will not end with statues because it is not about statues; it is about attacking both the story and the ultimate author whose authority the attackers will not respect and tolerate, let alone revere and uphold.

What is not canceled is also important context. Amazon still sells Mein Kampf. Cardi B’s pornographic song “WAP” (don’t look it up!) is under no threat on any platform. Instead, the Left aims at more wholesome targets.

It is precisely the wholesomeness and remarkably wide popularity of Dr. Seuss that makes him a likely and effective target. Innocence, for the woke, is dominance—and thus it must be corrupted or shown to be corrupt. Casting suspicion over Dr. Seuss achieves two important goals in the progressive march into hazy wokeness.

For one, it prompts us to suspect that if Dr. Seuss can be a racist (without even knowing it!) then likely all of our society and history is hopelessly racist. Creating this sort of blanket suspicion over all is where the new goalposts lie and reflects a supply and demand problem for the Left. The demand to uncover racism is at an all-time high, even while the supply of racial transgressions is at a low, creating a fervor and hysteria to convince people to find racism anywhere. This keeps on fueling the narrative that it is, in fact, everywhere.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it prompts us to become suspicious of ourselves. “I grew up loving Dr. Seuss,” you might think. “How did I overlook this racism? What else am I not seeing now?” No longer able to trust ourselves makes us more docile to the totalizing coercion of the woke mob.

The more suspicious we become about those around us, as well as about ourselves, the more successful is the narrative that racism—the secular stand-in for original sin—is found in everything and corrupts everything. And, with that established, that our redemption is found in our perpetual suspicion of ourselves and others. But unlike the path of redemption for a Christian, this secular version puts us on a harsh and merciless road.

The destruction of statues and iconoclasm that consistently precedes revolutions are not accidental; it is part of the necessary reprogramming that must occur in order to make people fearful, disoriented, and subservient. It is a road we have seen before and the pattern is always the same, with the same tragic outcomes to varying degrees. But it only succeeds by our consent, and its greatest threat is an informed and free-thinking populace, unafraid and truly awake.

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About Noelle Mering 4 Articles
Noelle Mering is a Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a scholar at The Institute of Human Ecology. She is the author of Awake, Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology (TAN Books, 2021). She is an editor for the website and the coauthor of the Theology of Home book series.


    • Perhaps a Catholic publisher might pick up the distribution of Dr. Seuss. His spiritual journey from war-propagandist for Frank Capra, to Hiroshima visitor, to author of “Horton Hears a Who” and other children’s books might even deserve a full-scale biography. He is one of the well-known graduates of the former classical high school in Springfield, Massachusetts. Perhaps some ideologists cannot bear hearing “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Still, small voices, however, somehow have a way of being heard.

      • The problem is that it isn’t the publisher who is stopping the printing. It’s Dr. Seuss Enterprises, organization that owns the rights to the books, that’s doing it.

      • Great idea for another publisher to pick up these wonderfull banned books. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. We are firmly on that road to disaster.

      • SNEETCHS is the most unbiased. Sneetchs with star and those with out the star figured out that being different can still be best friends, And they were not that different.

  1. Barnes & Noble apparently isn’t caving to the flaming fools on the left — at last glance, Dr. Seuss was still acceptable there, along with his books.

  2. I interpreted removing those 6 books as an act that would help future generations to still appreciate Dr. Seuss. Kids of color won’t accidentally stumble across a depiction of a black man being beaten and then lose their appreciation of Dr. Seuss altogether. It’s specific incidences, not cancelling Dr. Seuss altogether.

    This move will increase his longevity and maintain a better legacy for his books. Just because additional authors are being celebrated doesn’t mean that others are being pushed down.

    You should question what in the past was hidden racism. It helps you empathize with the struggles of others. It’s tough work, but realize it’s not about you and white culture being undermined. It’s about exposing multiple sides of an issue so that we can all better love one another as God loves us.

    • “This move will increase his longevity and maintain a better legacy for his books.”

      No, it won’t. They’ll simply find excuses to ban ever more books because someone, somewhere, might find something in them offensive.

      “You should question what in the past was hidden racism. It helps you empathize with the struggles of others.”

      Actually, no, it doesn’t. It empowers the perpetually offended to ban absolutely everything with which they disagree – and that includes Christianity.

      “It’s tough work, but realize it’s not about you and white culture being undermined.”

      Flapdoodle. Nobody is claiming that “white culture” is being undermined, and by using that phrase you are attacking anybody who disagrees with you and attempting to bludgeon him into submission and coerce him into silence.

      “It’s about exposing multiple sides of an issue so that we can all better love one another as God loves us.”

      Your way of “loving one another” is to accuse people who disagree with you of racism.

    • Your parroting social media’s ideas of what is correct exemplifies the reason we will never, I say never, be able to discuss, debate, or decide some acceptable consensus on any issue anymore. Any and all learning now comes from social media. There is no substance, no factual reasoning about anything – Dr. Seuss has been declared racist by social media. Done deal. No discussion. No debate. Has anyone actually read these supposedly cursed books? Have they actually decided for themselves that these cursed books should be banned? Not likely in most cases, but lacking real information we “feel good” about following social media saying these books should be banned.

      Not too far in the past people who wanted to ban books were considered close-minded, uneducated. We had to see all sides so we could make our own informed choices and decisions on subjects. That was part of “education.” So now social media tells me what to read, what to say, what will make me “feel” that something is right or wrong.

      This whole direction we’re headed is crazy.

  3. It seems a stretch, but I fear the next step is that anyone reading these books that have been declared ‘racist’ will themselves be declared ‘racist’ just for reading the book! When does this nonsense end?

  4. thank you for a wonderful and insightful article. It seems we just keep going in circles and one day I am praying we all really wake up to what will make a difference in equality and prosperity for all vs many of the things that are done in the name of them.

  5. “For one, it prompts us to suspect that if Dr. Seuss can be a racist (without even knowing it!) then likely all of our society and history is hopelessly racist.”

    I wouldn’t say ‘hopelessly,’ but this is surprisingly on-the-mark. Wait till you see what they used to push out in newspaper comics in the 40s.

  6. If you had friends whose parents and grandparents were at Manzanar, Poston or Tule Lake you’ll know that there is definitely another side to Mr. Geisel. As a Christian I can forgive but as a witness to history I cannot forget.

  7. The behavior of the SJWs is that special privileges attach to being woke. The ends, their intentions, justify any means necessary, including character assassination. Their behavior fits the slang definition of power trip,” A sustained and often aggressive exercise of power over others in order to boost one’s stature or feelings of self-worth.” Accountability is the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness. A truly righteous person would be very concerned about the consequences of their actions. People who seek equity must do equity. Moral relativism, the power to redefine things, is at the heart of Original Sin. It’s gotten to the point to where there is no truth upon which to carry on a rational discussion. This creates an unreliable and untrustworthy world, a world where a person’s word becomes worthless. A world that you can never turn your back on for fear of backstabbing. Social media has proven that what people say one day they will unsay the next. Race has become a largely meaningless word through overuse and redefinition.

  8. I don’t believe that any “special treatment” (e.g. Dr. Seuss or other kid material) of children more than absolutely necessary (e.g. helping them because of their natural age-related disabilities) is advisable. One should respect them and not tolerate bad behavior. Being overprotective (e.g. never expose them to things that might scare them) in accordance with the “tender years” idea is counterproductive. While of course they shouldn’t be exposed to “adult” material, what is forgotten is that even adults shouldn’t be exposed to such filth.

  9. It’s well that Dr Seuss never wrote a story about white media moguls who corrupt young minds, allow only their own opinions and “cancel” anyone who disagrees.
    Ah well! Given the way History is taught, they’ll be long forgotten. But
    they’ll have a spot listed right after Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot–all heroes of the Left.
    great guys!

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Why Doctor Seuss Matters – our world has gone mad! | Defenders of the Catholic Faith | Hosted by Stephen K. Ray
  2. Why Dr. Seuss matters – Catholic World Report | The Press

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