Down With Seuss!

Ted Geisel/Dr. Seuss is finding what he would have wrongly supposed to be unlikely "conservative" allies, who defend him either on the grounds that the enemy of my enemies is my friend--what we might call the Stalin Complex--or that his mockery of the Japanese was not really racist or was an aberration, or, worst of all, on the sacrosanct grounds of free speech--the Voltaire Ruse that, while I may disagree with everything you say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it.

Even Voltaire was not that silly.  Imagine some practical examples:  "As a Jew, I disagree with everything the Nazis are saying, but I'll defend to the death their right to say it."   You bet you will!  But not perhaps in the manner you'll imagine.  Or, "I'm a Catholic father of two girls, one of whom is engaged to be married and the other is going into a convent, but I'll defend to the death the right of the Porn industry to portray women as meat products to be seduced, raped, murdered--in a word, consumed.

Dr Seuss aka Ted Geisel would have been taken out and shot in a decent society, long ago, but I have never lived in a decent society except in the afterglow of Charleston in the 1960's.  What do I mean by "decent society"?  One that does not cultivate ugliness and stupidity, one that does not permit all questions of right and wrong, good and evil, competent and incompetent to be reduced to commercial standards.

Freedom of expression is one of those pernicious delusions even good people cannot rid themselves of--along with freedom of religion, respect for the opinions of people who have not earned the right to open their mouths, and those ugly chimeras "tolerance" and "diversity."  Bees know how to treat dissenting bees who put an extra wiggle into the bee dance: They sting them to death.  Of course, everyone who finds himself out of power, ignored, and oppressed, will clamor loudly for toleration, freedom of expression, and equal rights, but that is so tired a wheeze I am amazed that anyone falls for it. Seuss was foisted off on American children by the Schlock merchants of the publishing industry. As president, I promise to put all the big conglomerates out of business.

Any civilized  community--ancient Athens or Medieval Siena--has standards, rules it does no permit to be abridged.  In Saint Catherine's day, a young man visiting Siena had a few drinks too many and shot his mouth off about that small but intensely beautiful and even more intensely proud city.  He was arrested and sentenced to death.  Naturally, a punk with such limited discretion complained loudly of the unfairness until Catherine visited him in his cell and showed him that if he sincerely repented and died before he could go  from bad to bad to worse,  he could count his blessings, which he did.

Even societies like labor unions and universities have the duty to enforce their rules.  Sam Francis and I used to agree in upholding the right of leftist universities to impose speech codes.  It is up to university authorities to decide what behavior will be tolerated in their institutions, and insulting one's fellow students for their race or religion is in principle incompatible with the civilized behavior once demanded of young gentlemen.  Times have changed, of course, and no one even knows what a gentleman used to be--though even in the early 1960's my college's student affairs director told us the only real rule for the men students was to act as gentlemen and, if we did not know what that meant, we were in the wrong college.  (He may have suggested Clemson or Texas A&M as alternatives,)

Some years ago I found my self at an incredibly boring conference full of Straussians. I did find an ally in the philosopher John Gray and we banded together with Ernest van den Haag--a very unlikely friend for me to make, but it happened. I don't know which of us proposed the notion, perhaps it was Ernest, but we decided to establish an official Society for the Preservation of Trees. Naturally, it would be our responsibility to decide what writings were worth the sacrifice of a tree.

Ernest is dead; John went to work for the Labour Party, and that leaves me as the Supreme Protector of Trees and Guardian of Literacy.

Let be be finale of seem

The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

13 Responses

  1. JD Salyer says:

    Agreed. What is most deeply objectionable about liberals is not that they make decisions & enforce rules — i.e., “censor,” like everybody has done and always will do — but that they do so after claiming neutrality with respect to radically differing theories of the Good. That preposterous claim to neutrality — i.e., ultimate indifference — is the whole basis for liberalism’s supremacy in the first place! In practice, liberal “neutrality” means the rules and codes by which we must live are informed by indifference if not hostility toward the things I care about, and by an emotional frenzy for the things liberals care about.

    I am not sure the term “hypocrisy” quite captures the essence of the thing. At any rate I don’t think it’s conscious.

  2. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    They are not sufficiently self-aware to be hypocrites.

  3. Robert Reavis says:

    I agree with Tom Fleming. I never liked The Seuss stories and tried to avoid them when I was a young father and though the illustrations were worse than the stories.
    There are a lot better children’s stories with beautiful illustrations available. I liked the Uncle Remus stories about big mouth rabbits, revengeful bears, cunning foxes and tar babies who said absolutely nothing but I am sure those have been banned for years. Hans Christian Anderson stories were another favorite. Aesop’s fables were stories I no doubt enjoyed more than my children but they could enjoy the pictures while I enjoyed the stories.
    Truth be told it was only a matter of time until the innovators and fantastic liberals turned on each other because it was never about children and stories anyhow, it was always about the new utopia they thought they were building.

  4. Allen Wilson says:

    I second Mr Reavis. I never liked the Seuss stories either. Even as a little kid, I sensed, without understanding why, that there was something unwholesome about them. I remember reading The Cat in the Hat in first grade, only because other kids were reading it, and being glad to have gotten through with it, never wanting to read another Seuss story again, and I never thought kids should be exposed to Seuss. Of course the left wants to ban Seuss for all the wrong (ideological) reasons anyway, just like always, so you know what they can do as far as I’m concerned.

    When my relatives began discussing this issue and the Disney fiasco via text messages, I told them it wouldn’t work in the long run, and mentioned that the establishment had tried to shove both Jefferson and Poe down the memory hole, but they both had returned with a vengeance. Then I mentioned WG Sims and said that he would also return one day. Why Sims? Because they undoubtedly had never heard of him, so I was letting them know he existed. That’s how you fight these wars.

  5. Frank Brownlow says:

    It’s been a long time since I looked at “Dr.Seuss,” not since I had a seven-year-old boy in fact, but I remember recoiling from the books in disgust. He came from Springfield, MA, just down the road from us, where they make a lot of fuss about him, so you can imagine the conflicted state of the local Biden voters over these recent developments. According to the NY Times, it was the Seuss estate that decided to censor the Seuss canon, not, unfortunately, for being a terrible artist and writer, but for thinking exactly like most of Springfield MA in his time. He’s an excellent addition to our imitation literature and imitation art collection. But think of all the children whose taste he’s been used to corrupt.

  6. Vince Cornell says:

    I’ve carried my childhood resentment against Dr. Seuss with me to this day – making up rhymes when you just make up nonsense words is cheating! I’ve always been resentful that he somehow made a (quite comfortable) living this way.
    But now they’re trying to cancel Pepe Le Pew for promoting “rape culture.” I quite enjoy Pepe Le Pew, at least the early cartoons before Warner Brothers started going cheap with the animation budget. How will our children be able to form a correct understanding of French culture without Mr. Le Pew?! I need a t-shirt that says “I stand with Pepe Le Pew! . . . only I stand a good ways upwind!”

  7. Dom says:

    I had the impression that all the Looney Tunes were canceled a long time ago. Where does one even find a Pepe Le Pew cartoon to cancel?

  8. William Shofner says:

    As we share memories of literature read during our childhood, the only book that I recall with any detail from those days was the “Jungle Book” by the now notorious, if not unspeakable, grand imperialist Rudyard Kipling. My dear mother read to me stories from it almost nightly. The tale of “Rikki-Tiki-Tavi”, the heroic mongoose and his battles with ghastly cobras, thrilled and haunted me. I believe now as then that my mother was warning me as early as she could that there were snakes in the garden. Of course, she was right. The snakes are still here.

  9. Raymond Olson says:

    Children should be weaned from twentieth-century “children’s books” as soon as possible. Mr. Shofner’s mother was a good mother. As for my mother, she recited poetry to me since I was very little and later the animal stories of Thornton Burgess and the Raggedy Ann stories of Johnny Gruelle and Howard Garis’ Uncle Wiggily (she also had songbooks about the latter two characters, and we’d sing them together at the piano). First grade exposure to Dick and Jane determined me to upgrade my reading skills as quickly as possible. I was later told that I tested at sixth-grade level at the end of that year. At any rate, I soon dove into Poe and Longfellow and Lewis Carroll. By fifth grade, my favorite poet was E. E. Cummings. I’ll put in a good word for Classics Illustrated comics for acquainting me with writers and titles to look into–as I have to a remarkable extent. The last words of each CI were an injunction to read the original on which it was based. Good counsel.

  10. Raymond Olson says:

    Should’ve said “twentieth-century and later”.

  11. Raymond Olson says:

    Let me add that only now, with my 73d birthday breathing down my neck, have I read a book that I think children should study as soon as they can. It is The Art of Rhetoric by Aristotle.

  12. Jacob Johnson says:

    The Magic Pudding, picked up by my father’s family living in Australia for a few years, was one of my favorite children’s books. A bit Lewis Carroll-ish.

  13. Brent says:

    I really appreciated the Wallace Stevens coda.