A persistent menace posing an ongoing threat to the health, safety and welfare of Americans everywhere has struck again in recent days.
I’m not talking about the mass shooting in Las Vegas, deadly hurricanes or tooth decay, but the constant spectre of political correctness. Not just political correctness, which is bad enough in itself, but the extra effort being put forth nowadays to brand everyone a racist.
Of course, this has been true of anyone who supports law enforcement officers, the flag or the national anthem, and most certainly all those who voted for Donald Trump.
They have become the usual suspects as far as handy targets for racial demonizing, but most recently others have been added to the list who anyone with a brain should consider shocking if not outrageous.
Chief among these is Dr. Seuss, the celebrated author of more than 40 books, including many timeless examples of unique children’s literature most of us grew up reading, such as “The Cat in the Hat,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Green Eggs and Ham.”
(I had to get that last one in there, since I used the words “green eggs” in the headline and wanted to ensure truth in advertising.)
Dr. Seuss is widely praised for his clever rhyming and other innovative approaches that have made concepts such as tolerance, diversity, compromise and even the true meaning of Christmas more understandable to kids.
Schools hold Dr. Seuss observances to highlight his value to the educational system, complete with costumed characters, and his books have been studied in university classrooms. Many have been made into films, further cementing the Seuss legacy.
Which apparently includes racism, if you subscribe to the recent rants of a librarian in Massachusetts who returned a collection of 10 Seuss books sent to her school by Melania Trump, the first lady. Liz Phipps Soeiro said she did so because titles of Seuss books contain “racist propaganda.”
The librarian went on to rave about how Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are “steeped” in racist caricatures and harmful stereotypes.
The basis for one of the complaints is that the character in “The Cat in the Hat” allegedly was patterned after racial stereotypes and inspired by traditions of the blackface minstrel.
Now I have read “The Cat in the Hat” numerous times and like to think I have a keen eye for detail, and never have I noticed any minstrel association with that character. Chances are most other people didn’t, either, until the librarian registered her Grinch-like complaints.
Dr. Seuss also is “guilty” of featuring a scene in his first book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mullberry Street,” depicting a Chinese man with chopsticks, a pointed hat and slanted slit eyes.
There is no evidence that the author was intentionally trying to convey or promote racial stereotypes, because nothing else in his writings or interviews suggests Dr. Seuss harbored such thoughts.
In fact, one of the greatest anti-racism stories ever penned was his tale of the Sneetches, a group of creatures including some with green stars on their bellies and others without. Those in the latter category are shunned and discriminated against, and both fall into the clutches of an entrepreneur who charges each to add or remove stars to achieve special status.
All the Sneetches wind up broke, but learn a valuable lesson: Neither plain-bellied nor star-bellied ones are superior and they all learn to get along.
If Dr. Seuss is “guilty” of anything, it involves the fact that his work of 50 or 60 years ago doesn’t fit 100 percent into the politically correct context of today, which misguidedly seeks to pigeon-hole our entire body of history and literature into that mold. If there is any hint of a racist stereotype whatsoever, then an author and his or her whole portfolio is conveniently labeled as racist.
One telling thing about the Dr. Seuss controversy is that it appears political in nature — surprise, surprise, surprise!
There was no such outcry when then-first lady Michelle Obama read a Seuss book to children in the East Room of the White House in January 2015.
Apparently, the Massachusetts librarian didn’t get the memo that people of her apparent political ilk aren’t supposed to level criticism toward anything those on her side might have engaged in as well. But even if she did realize this, it can systematically fall into the usual realm of double-standards, selective outrage and identity politics on which that side relies.
(I kept my promise to mention “green eggs” and have now done likewise with the “idiots” part of the headline.)
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.