Even when it’s silly, storytelling has always been a serious part of our cultural conversation. If you want to talk about; politics, pop culture or religion, storytellers give historical context to the times. In a way, their cliff notes are the vibe of their tribe.
Egyptians carved hieroglyphics, native American’s designed totem poles and since the invention of papyrus, authors have penned stories. As Dr. Seuss could have said, it’s about the buzz that was.
Last month, 6 books written by Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, were labeled racist and insensitive by Dr.Seuss Enterprises. A press released said, ” …, after evaluating feedback from readers and considering the views of academic specialists, Dr. Seuss Enterprises decided to ban further publication of the offensive books. “The books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong. Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure the Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families”. The intention of the ban is to preserve and protect the author’s legacy.
So, what is the legacy of Theodor Seuss Geisel?
Geisel was born in 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Prohibition outlawed the brewery his family owned. His dad became the superintendent of parks that included a zoo. Some of those animals live on, as hybrids, in the Dr. Seuss series.
Theodor attended Dartmouth College and was editor-in-chief of the school paper. Caught drinking in his dorm room with buddies, Geisel was banned from contributing to the “Jack-O-Lantern”. Determined not to be censored, he assumed his mother’s maiden name and continued to write for Dartmouth as ~ Dr. Seuss.
Studying English literature at Oxford, Geisel met fellow student, and Wellesley College grad, Helen Palmer. She encouraged him to abandon the goal of teaching, and pursue a career fusing his artistic and literary interests.
As a married couple the two became successful business partners and social activists. They launched the Dr. Seuss series and were founders of Beginner Books. Although World War II suspended work on Seuss books, Geisel’s creativity produced pro-America films for the Army, warning soldiers of dangerous dictators like, Mussolini and Hitler. Captain Geisel commanded the Army’s first Motion Picture Unit.
After the war, using newsreel footage, Geisel and Helen wrote “Design for Death”. The Academy Award winning screen play, explained the attack on Pearl Harbor as the result of fanatical Emperors attempting to convince the world to see the Japanese as a Master Race.
Civilian awards lead to financial freedom. Celebrity status enabled the Geisel’s to enjoy La Jolla, California’s carefree lifestyle. When Helen became ill, Theodor began an affair with a married neighbor Audrey Diamond.
Within months of Helen’s suicide, Audrey, divorced her husband, (Dr. Grey Dimond,M.D. a pioneer in modern cardiology, and founder of the American College of Cardiologists ), to marry her lover ~ the Rat in the Hat.
Enrolling her two daughters in boarding school, Audrey Geisel encouraged her new husband to write an additional 20 books. When Dr. Seuss died in 1991, she founded Dr. Seuss Enterprises to over-see all Seuss properties.
While Theodor Seuss Geisel’s life of 87 years was complicated, his primers were simple. They cliff noted his times and vibed with kid tribes. Written with limited vocabulary, the goal of the books was to be fun enablers of literacy. They were not vehicles of malicious political indoctrination.
Opposed to Mussolini ‘s publication restrictions and Hitler’s burning of books Geisel saw the suppression of art as cultural vandalism. Theodor Geisel’s whole life is his legacy. To sanitize his work is a malicious threat to American storytelling.
The playbook of the Woke risks leaving us culturally broke. Witten with a limited vocabulary, their texts are a play on plagiarized words; twisted out of context. As self-appointed custodians of culture such revisionist stories of American politics, pop culture and religion devalues the integrity of American history.
“The Cat in the Hat” may be a “Rat in a Spat,” but understanding the totality of his legacy is a serious part of the American conversation.