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Please Don’t Drag Dr. Seuss Into Your Culture War

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Dr. Seuss and Potato Head may not seem the same.

But don’t load “cancel culture” with all of the blame.

Forgive me. That moment of mangled poetry is inspired by the overblown uproar from right-wing politicians and media to the news that, as Fox News’ Martha MacCallum put it on her morning show last Tuesday, bestselling children’s book author Dr. Seuss was “quite literally being canceled.”

Well, no, not quite. The Thought Police have not come marching their jackboots into bookstores and libraries to snatch the beloved works of Theodor Seuss Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss, off the shelves like the Grinch who stole Christmas.

In fact, it was Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the actual caretaker of the late author’s legacy, not its detractors, who decided to discontinue six of his more than 60 books because of caricatures that “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”

This is by no means the first time that some of Dr. Seuss’ art has caused consternation. But seldom has there been a time when social and political conservatives have turned more quickly and passionately into snowflakes about any liberal move they can call “cancel culture,” appropriately or not.

 

Days earlier, toy giant Hasbro announced a marketing decision to rebrand its iconic Mr. Potato Head to simply Potato Head, which brought backlash from conservatives fearing some sort of society-wide assault on gender norms.

“First it was Mr. Potato Head,” said House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. “Now it’s Dr. Seuss. Who do you think they’re coming after next?”

I don’t know, but with hard-core free-market conservatives also raising false charges that Disney was “canceling” its streaming of “The Muppet Show,” when it was only including warnings of “negative depictions or mistreatment of people or cultures” on 17 episodes, anything is possible.

Nevertheless, I have to say that I was among those who were disappointed by the Dr. Seuss announcement. To my chagrin I noticed that the six discontinued books include “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” first published in 1937 and, to my vivid recollection, my first favorite book.

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