I consider myself to be a hard-core fan of Theodore Geisel, who wrote and illustrated under the name Dr. Seuss. When I say hard-core, I mean it. I know “Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose” by heart, I own a volume of his pre-WWII antifascist cartoons, and I taught my kids Spanish with “Huevos Verdes con Jamón.” As a child, I had his records. Yes, there were Dr. Seuss records, and you haven’t laughed until you’ve played the 45 rpm version of “Fox in Sox” at 78 rpm (ask someone over 40 if you don’t understand what that means). So, I am truly horrified by American politicians and their newfound love of Dr. Seuss. They read him everywhere, they try and fail to emulate him for their own purposes and they misinterpret him badly. For the love of Bartholomew Cubbins, this Seuss abuse must stop!
The whole fad started when U.S. Senator and Canadian citizen Ted Cruz used “Green Eggs and Ham” during his failed and pathetic “filibuster” against Obamacare last autumn. It was mildly cute as it was his daughters’ bedtime and he wanted to read them a story from the floor of the Senate. And as a bedtime story reader, he has a future — if it were a reality show, his performance would have put him through to the next round.
However, the meme took off that the American people didn’t like Obamacare any more than they would like green eggs and ham. In all fairness to our Dual Citizenship Senator, he didn’t say that on the Senate floor, but when a lie is more entertaining than the truth, America tends to prefer the lie. The trouble with the lie is that if you read the WHOLE story, the protagonist winds up trying the previously unpalatable cuisine and discovers that he likes it. Try it and you might like it is Dr. Seuss’s message. The rightists using this book to attack Obamacare is self-defeating — try it and you may, I say.
Then, Sarah Palin (God’s gift to stand-up comics) delivered a Seussian attack on the Obama administration. “I do not like this Uncle Sam. I do not like his healthcare scam. I do not like these dirty crooks or how they lie and cook the books.” I will spare you all the awful rest of Mrs. Palin’s lame-ass jest. The point is that some people won’t leave well-enough alone.
If it had been just the Republicans who developed this fascination with Dr. Seuss, I would have let it go. It’s far less harmful than their fascination with disenfranchising American citizens with voter ID laws, their fascination with transferring more of the wealth from the poor to the rich, or their fascination with stopping marriages between people they’ve never met.
Alas, the Democrats had to get into the act as well. During a pointless, 30-hour jabber-athon on climate change, Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts read “The Lorax.” Now, the story is a direct appeal to people to care about the environment, and as such, it was on target. But I fear there will be more to come. The King’s Stilts and Bartholomew and the Oobleck would have been just as apt, and given how much Dr. Seuss wrote, his work may begin to crowd out other voices in American politics.
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While I like “The Sneetches,” and its attack on racism, I’m not sure it’s better than “I have a dream.” The issue of abortion should not be discussed with reference to Horton the Elephant (“A person’s a person no matter how small.”). Nor do I believe that the last word on nuclear weapons resides in “The Butter Battle Book.”
American politicians used to speak extemporaneously with appropriate use of quotations from Plato or Shakespeare. Now, they read children’s books.
I suppose I should be grateful that they are reading quality kids lit — or even that they are reading at all.