By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Today, I found myself scouring the internet, looking for contraband of such an apparently appalling nature that I was actually hesitant to launch a search, worried the Google overlords might be tracking me.
After finding what I wanted, I still faced the daunting prospect of actually obtaining my purchase of socially questionable material.
But I set my jaw and proceeded to enter the number of my credit card, completing my purchase and throwing caution to the not insubstantial Wyoming wind.
I was not purchasing firearms, explosives, rock albums with explicit lyrics or porn.
I was looking for Dr. Seuss books. Specifically, six that Dr. Seuss Enterprises says will no longer be published.
Heinous, I know. For a supporter of free speech to stockpile books that are declared racist by today’s standards … well, it’s almost as bad as reading “Huck Finn.”
But before you think too harshly of me and waggle a finger in my direction — as many enlightened people have chosen to do on the national stage — hear out my reasoning.
First, I love these books. I haven’t read all of the books on the list, but “If I Ran the Zoo” was one a beloved uncle read to me too many times to count. “Eggs Super Duper” was one of the first books I learned to read on my own.
And of course, “To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street,” the first of the children’s books published by Theodore Geisel under the pen name of Dr. Seuss, is a literary milestone.
And while these books are not being banned, stopping their publication amounts to the same thing.
A search of book retailers large and small revealed that most are completely sold out of the “Mulberry” title — and with no more being printed, there will be no replacements on the market any time soon, save those collectible editions that are going for $900 and more.
So I want to save these books for my grandchildren. I want them to hear and enjoy the same hypnotic rhyme that I enjoyed as a child.
I want to save them for me. As a way to remember my childhood.
And I want to save them for a society that has become so sensitive it cannot realize that the same standards in place now were not in place 80, 40, 20, 10 or even five years ago.
My biggest concern over the whole fracas is this: These books are not being taken out of publication because they are racist or discuss issues of race.
The problem stems from images that were found on their pages. Images that would have been common in 1937, when “Mulberry” was written, but that many rightfully find objectionable now.
So a book is being pulled from publication not because of its words, but because of images. I just want to make sure everyone has that straight. A book pulled from the public view, but not for what it says.
But history can’t be changed by removing objectionable images. Those types of racially stereotypical images were used widely at the time and not only by Dr. Seuss. Removing them from public circulation just means future generations won’t know why they were objectionable.
We often learn far more from the mistakes of history than we do the successes. These were the mistakes of Dr. Seuss, a man who, by all accounts, made very few — almost none when these books are placed in proper historic context.
Indeed, Seuss was known for the lessons of tolerance he passed on to children through his books (who can forget the lesson of the Sneeches?).
Some have said Seuss himself would have supported this move, but I humbly disagree. I believe he was a man who would rather figure out a way to eliminate the objectionable images of his books than have his words disappear entirely.
So I will brave the glares of cashiers as I try to collect these memorials to my childhood. I will no doubt bow slightly under the judgmental pursed lips of those who will find my actions just a little less reprehensible than collecting Nazi memorabilia.
But I will not surrender Seuss’ words to the mob.