Franke: They’ve Come for Dr. Seuss

March 10, 2021

by Mark Franke

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

This iconic line from the movie “Network” has been repeated so often that it no longer has any effect. However, I can positively assert that this is the first time I’ve used it. In fact I had to do a Google search to learn where it came from as I don’t watch movies, not wishing to be mind-numbed by the tripe that comes out of the intellectual wasteland called Hollywood.

That said, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking of this quote when I learned that the cancel culture brigade has issued a dictat that Dr. Seuss is a racist and his books are not to be read in our schools. President Joe Biden, for whom my hope that he will be guided by his basic decency and not the extremist wing of his party grows dimmer each day, apparently succumbed to the thought police trolling the West Wing and conveniently failed to mention Dr. Suess in his Read Across America proclamation. 

The irony here is that Read Across America Day deliberately is promoted on . . . guess whose birthday? Right, Theodor Geisel, the real name of Dr. Seuss. For a further dose of irony, it was President Barack Obama who popularized Dr. Seuss on this day by calling him “one of America’s revered wordsmiths” and that he “used his incredible talent to instill in his most impressionable readers universal values we all hold dear.”

How can Dr. Seuss be blacklisted like this? Even those entrusted with his legacy caved to the torch-and-pitchfork mob storming the castle and removed six of his books from sale, and now eBay is trying to block any resale of the banned six. Their decision caused Dr. Seuss books to hold nine of the top ten spots in Amazon’s best seller list last week, so maybe the suits at Dr. Suess Enterprises in reality are crazy like a fox.

I grew up with Dr. Seuss. I read every one of his books my small school library possessed and begged my parents to buy the missing ones. My wife and I read these books to our children and grandchildren at bedtime. I suspect nearly every parent and grandparent in America can say the same.

So what’s the problem? They claim some of the cartoon images are racist. They certainly are strange, at least some of them, but they pull the mind’s eye into an imaginary world of escapism that is the refuge of all school children. Is it his poetic style they find offensive? How many times can Dr. Seuss rhyme the name “Sam” in “Green Eggs and Ham”? A stunning number of times, as we all know. Keats and Byron may have nothing to fear artistically but then how often is their stuff read to kindergarten children?

Then there is “Horton Hears a Who!” This heart-warming story is an effective parable about the relative insignificance of outward differences, something that doesn’t play well in our age of identity politics. “A person is a person, no matter how small.” I submit that President Obama got it exactly right, and fortunately this title hasn’t been canceled, at least not until somebody decides it is guilty of sizeism. 

It’s time to draw a line in the sand, at risk of stirring the censorship beast by using an Alamo meme. I have been pushed too far. I can ignore being called all sorts of nasty epithets due to my skin color, my gender, my religion and my voting preferences. I really don’t care what the coastal elitists see as my birth and character deficiencies. My seventieth birthday is rapidly approaching and I am content to continue living my life as I always have, fortunately here in the Midwest where sanity still prevails — most of the time.

But I absolutely will not stand for having my enjoyment and, more importantly, my grandchildren’s enjoyment canceled by a bunch of neo-Puritan killjoys. Maybe that’s just me in one of my many senior bouts of grumpiness but I have yet to find anyone who disagrees with me on this.

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Whew! I feel much better now and I promise never to quote that line again.

What I will do is pull out a Dr. Seuss book and gather my grandchildren. Maybe I better lock my doors and pull the shades, just in case Big Woke Brother is lurking in the bushes. But then, he probably already has enough evidence to cancel me all the way into eternity.

Mark Franke, an adjunct scholar and of the Indiana Policy Review and its book reviewer, is formerly an associate vice-chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.


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