Schellhammer

Marcie Schellhammer

They’ve come for Fitzgerald, and Salinger’s works.

Publishers, schools, and parents and jerks.

They’ve come for Papa and Steinbeck, Orwell and Kesey.

Why, oh dear why, do we make it so easy?

Lord of the Flies, The Lord of the Rings

Of Mice and Men and so many more things.

Now If I Ran the Zoo and Mulberry Street?

What happened to steering yourself by your feet?

Seuss said, “Step with care and great tact,

and remember that life’s a great balancing act.”

Should we balance the good with the bad?

Or cancel it all, and no learning be had?

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

So cancel it, cancel it, cancel it all!

The TV will show us greed and excess,

That’s so much better than lessons, I guess?

Kanye and Kim, rap music, TikTok

Let us focus on these, and the hatred will stop?

We should learn from our past, or be condemned to repeat it.

Look at the message, with warnings if needed.

Seuss was a man, not perfect, or dumb.

“It’s not about what it is. It’s about what it can become.”

Teach children the pictures, the wrongness and what.

“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.”

So I’m no Dr. Seuss, and I whipped that up in about a half hour. Hopefully the point is clear.

George Santyana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

To me, that, more than anything else, is a strong argument against censorship.

I’m sure you’ve heard the news that six classic books by Dr. Seuss are being taken out of print for alleged racist images drawn as illustrations with the stories. I can recall my daughter asking me about some of the silly drawings in Dr. Seuss books. No, pants won’t chase you down the street, and no, highways weren’t built around the North-going and South-going Zax.

And no, those racist stereotypes weren’t true, either.

Let me share some of the messages that stuck with me from Dr. Seuss’ works. First, from the Sneetches, the creatures who paid money to have a star printed on their chest. At the end of the story, the Sneetches realized they couldn’t tell anything about each other from the outside — it was what was inside that mattered.

Mulberry Street and McElligot’s Pool — both of which are being taken out of print — both encouraged the use of imagination, of patience, of hope. I read these books over and over again as a child, and over and over again to my child. I didn’t remember any of the things that the publisher cited as being objectionable; my memories were of the lesson imparted.

I’ve read many stories and opinions on the Seuss saga. “It’s not cancel culture,” many say. “This is living forward through time.”

Others say “you’re only bothered because you don’t want change.”

That’s not true.

I remember a story my late in-laws used to tell about a trip with their granddaughter. There was a dead bird on the beach near where they were. They didn’t want her to notice it, so they made a fuss to keep her away from it.

Intrigued because of the fuss, she noticed the dead bird. There weren’t any histrionics on her part. It was a bird. It was dead. They created the fuss by making a fuss.

As a journalist, I put a lot of stock in the First Amendment. I’m not a fan of censorship. What I advocate is education. It’s a teachable moment.

If my daughter were young, I might put those books aside for a time when we could discuss why the stereotype was wrong. I would encourage her to learn more about the culture being wrongly portrayed. We would have some conversations, some additional research, and learn something in the process.

As Seuss said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

(Marcie Schellhammer is the Era’s assistant managing editor. She can be reached at marcie@bradfordera.com.)

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