No One Is Canceling Dr. Seuss

Photo by Catherine Hammond on Unsplash

By Nora Parker

My personal deconstruction and “exvangelization” has taken off in the past year. I’m still daily unraveling and reexamining, and mostly coming to terms with the fact that this is probably where I’m going to be hanging out ideologically for the duration of my earth walk. Maybe forever. My ultimate dream of heaven has always been that there would be continued, perpetual creation and education and study. And yes, I’m a nerd.

Part of my quest to find community and set boundaries for myself at home is that I finally got a Facebook account. I had previously not engaged with social media because it made my conservative husband twitchy (and that is a whole ‘nother article yet to be written). I just didn’t have the energy to buck the system until recently. But here I go.

“Facebook is more fun with friends!” the screen reads as I’m urged to look for everyone I’ve ever known and join with them in an intricate web of memes, baby pics, and free couches. I send a couple of friend requests. I’m suggested hundreds more, and I decided ‘Why not?!”‘ and hit REQUEST next to dozens of names including that gal from my preschool days. (Look! She has a new dog!)

My “friends” list is suddenly chock full of everyone I went to school with as well as everyone I go to church with and other people in my community. Plus I start following some local pages and a few special interest pages (ExvangelicalParent, anyone?). 

All that to say, my page was showing a pretty diverse set of rants from wildly oppositional sides. Pretty soon I’m seeing a lot of stuff about Dr. Seuss.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a big Dr. Seuss fan. The rhymes, the art, the whole deal. And if you haven’t read “You’re Only Old Once,” I highly recommend you fetch a copy, pour a cup of coffee, and enjoy a good chuckle. I also know that Dr. Seuss was a prolific American political cartoonist and propagandist during the second world war. Racism and Nationalism are often a huge chunk of the war machine so you know there’s cringey stuff in that part of his portfolio.

I also watched a documentary about the Doc, showcasing lots of interviews with those who knew him best. Verdict: he was no saint, and truth be told, he wasn’t crazy about children.

He also gave us The Sneetches, The Butterbattle Book, Yertle the Turtle, and The Lorax, all highly political, thoughtful books, and personal family favorites. 

So with all the hype on social media, I finally had to go see for myself what the hubbub was about. What I found, which you were likely already aware of, was this: the family of the late Seuss, the owners of the rights to his works, decided to stop publishing a few (not terribly popular) Seuss books because of racist imagery. I would also note that some of the ill-fated imagery was anti-Asian, which to me says “Hey, we are acknowledging that anti-Asian discrimination is unacceptable.” And I think that’s a plus, and worth noting since conservatives often paint the antiracist movement as not including Asian people.

Maybe you can relate to my feelings when I finally got to the bottom of the hoopla: I was relieved.

Originally, part of me was a little hesitant to look into the matter and find that either:

A) Dr. Seuss’ work was replete with racism and I would need to reevaluate his place on our shelves.

OR

B) My conservative friends and family were right when they accused the Powers That Be of canceling Dr. Seuss over something insane.

The truth was, thankfully, neither of those two things.

Yes, there are racist images in some of his books. The legal guardians of those works are choosing not to publish them anymore. The Suess estate knows better, so they are doing better. Dr. Seuss has not been canceled. Everyone can calm the F down.

I turn my gaze back to my Facebook feed, and I recognize that, yes, my conservative friends are blowing this out of proportion. Big time. And my not-so-conservative friends are like, “You can still buy your kind-of-racist books at the thrift store. Get over it.” Which is the kind of grace and dry wit I’ve come to enjoy from ‘the other side’ now that I find myself on it.

Honestly, it was waking up to these, often blind, extreme, and extremely prevalent views of the conservative/evangelical side that led me to first question my whole worldview last year. So I shouldn’t have been surprised. Yet, aside from relieved, that’s what I was: surprised.

The moral of the story for me, a complete social media novice, is this: do your own Google search. Look into the matter before you even “like” a post. Sometimes a clickbait headline seems reasonable, but turns out to be completely inaccurate. I had an unreal number of “friends” posting and liking stuff that was nonsensical on the topic of Seuss, which made them look uninformed.

Even though I’m feeling pretty critical of conservative thought as of late, I recognize that these errors can and do happen on both sides. Posting inaccurate information on social media is not endearing to thoughtful people on either side of the political spectrum.

It also showed me that we have a  long way to go. As a self-professed exvangelical and parent, there are many opportunities down the road to teach my children well and to have reasonable discussions with friends and families.

My number one new belief is that it’s okay to not know, to be on the fence, and to question everything. This frees me to do the real work of love: affirming others, encouraging others, and speaking and acting with compassion toward others.

In my evangelical days, I tried to act this out toward the marginalized. Now as an exvangelical, my challenge is to act this out toward a group who views me as an apostate, a heretic, even as I continue to grow into a true, useful ally.

But it’s worth it. Because “a person’s a person no matter how small.” I think we all fall into that category in some way or another, whether we are being oppressed or because we’re being deceived by our own upbringing, our greed, or our intentional ignorance.

Which Seussian character am I relating to these days? I guess it’s the Grinch for me. Reformed, not reformed, depends on which day you catch me.

*Love this essay? Buy me a coffee. It’s like a tip jar for our writers.*

Nora Parker is absolutely positive about few facts beyond the undeniable truth that she is indecisive and that Jesus represents a radical kind of love. She is in awe of her two daughters, (a teen and a toddler), and enjoys the patient love of a good man. Nora is relearning practically everything, and some things for the first time, like how to be a beneficial ally to the marginalized. Her passions include but are not limited to coffee, art, birth and motherhood, writing, sleeping, carbohydrates, and “liking” things.

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