By Caden Merrill, March 9, 2021
Being the Gen-Zer that I am, it should come as no surprise that I surf the Internet (yes, I still find that phrase relevant) multiple times daily. Not to stream movies and TV, but I also do it to obtain information, to see what issues are on everyone’s minds and to see what is happening in the world. As expected, much of the news that I see is not news that I would consider “good,” but overall, it rarely infuriates me. I could let it get to me, but I choose not to not dampen my inner optimist.
Once in a blue moon however, I see a news headline that boils my blood, and that blue moon was fully in sight a few days ago when I saw that Dr. Seuss was a trending Google search. I clicked it, and sure enough, I saw that cancel culture had struck once again, now claiming Dr. Seuss’ books to be racist, politically incorrect publications decimating children’s innocence with copious illustrations besotted with racial stereotypes and offensive depictions of certain demographics.
After I read several articles concerning the controversy, all from different news outlets and biases, I reflected on why I had read Dr. Seuss religiously as a kid. Was it because I found his degrading caricatures funny? Was it because I sympathized with his supposedly racist undertones in his books?
Of course not. Just like any other ordinary kid, I immersed myself in his books solely because of his beautiful and colorful illustrations and his insightful and dare I say it, life-changing messages.
“Green Eggs and Ham” taught me that it is good to try new things, even if they may seem strange or scary; “Horton Hears a Who” taught me that a person is a person, no matter how small, and that everybody deserves to have their voice heard; “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” taught me that Christmas cannot be found on a price tag; “The Lorax” taught me that protecting and preserving the planet is vital to humanity’s survival; and finally, “The Cat in the Hat” taught me that embracing my silly and spontaneous side is one of the best things I can do for myself.
As a kid, I had better things to do regarding Dr. Seuss than researching his imperfections (newsflash – everybody has those). I relished his imaginative environments and characters and his nonsensical rhymes. When I had inevitably outgrown my Dr. Seuss books, I boxed them up and stored them in my attic. I was not going to surrender them to my family’s next yard sale or to my local Goodwill. Instead, I was going to save them for when I would read bedtime stories to my children, showcasing them to the wondrous world and ideas of arguably the greatest children’s author of all time.
Sadly, the recent backlash toward Dr. Seuss’ books is yet another example of how political correctness is gradually shrouding so many artistic works that contain significant merit. Considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, “Gone with the Wind,” an epic Civil War period piece about coping with change, is being shunned into oblivion because of its glorification of slavery instead of being celebrated for its uplifting story of a young woman conquering adversity.
Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” declared by many literary scholars to be the Great American Novel, is frequently banned from schools because of its usage of the n-word instead of being widely read and revered as a moving tale of compassion and individualism.
All human beings are flawed, therefore everything produced by human beings are flawed, bearing both negative and positive attributes. By prioritizing the negative over the positive, people will never be introduced to thought-provoking and insightful ideas; instead, they will only be shown ideas that adhere to what is generally accepted to be “right,” which in turn diminishes the First Amendment’s potency.
While I do understand why people may want offensive content to be banned, it is important to note when that content was published and to consider the cultural norms and common depictions of certain peoples at the time. The moral and logical alternative to just erasing material deemed politically incorrect would be to show it to current generations as sort of an artifact in a museum to teach them to discern between right and wrong. To repeat Winston Churchill’s wise words, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”
The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, which entails speech that everybody may not always agree with. While America is not a utopia, it is one of the few countries in the world to have the gift of having this utopian right, and it is something that Americans should never take for granted.
Political correctness is a hotly contested issue that has both benefits and detriments. It can prevent hurtful and derogatory ideas from reaching people, but it can also prevent beneficial messages and I’d argue teachable moments from reaching people.
If there is not enough political correctness, those hurtful and derogatory ideas could influence too many people to act immorally, but if there is too much of it, artists and entertainers would be unable to fully express themselves, being forced to shy away from subjects that need to be discussed but would be considered “too triggering.” A balance must be met and maintained, and should that balance sway toward one direction, it will soon lean into an extreme, and when something goes to extremes, you get extreme consequences.
On the surface, Dr. Seuss may have written simple children’s books, but dig deeper and there is a myriad of messages in his works that guide people on how to live a good life, second only to the Bible. To make a long story short, overlook the bad things about Dr. Seuss and appreciate the good things. Read and retain every valuable thing, because, as he once said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you will go.”
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