Ebay bans sales of select Dr. Seuss titles. So roared the headline on the London Daily Mail.
I was reading the article, thinking I wasn’t going to write about this on my blog, but then I read something in there that gave me pause.
But first let me recap what’s going on for clarity. While Dr. Seuss’ six banned books are still available on Amazon – and elsewhere, I assume – Ebay has shut down any notices of those books being for sale for violating their “offensive material” policy.
Meanwhile Hitler’s and Louis Farrakhan’s books remain available complete with their anti-Semitic rants. You can even get copies of The Communist Manifesto.
Forgive me, but when Hitler is given a pass over Dr. Seuss, why do I feel like I’m at a Nazi Germany digital book burning?
Whatever happened to free speech? What is it really? The last big scene from An American President sums it up perfectly.
“America isn’t easy. America is advance citizenship. You’ve got to want it bad, because it’s going to put up a fight. It’s going to say, ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man who’s words make your blood boil who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours…Show me that! Defend that! Celebrate that in your classrooms! Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free!”
You really should watch the clip on YouTube. The section quoted above starts at 1:00.
Difference of opinions and views and debate are the backbone of freedom. They are the building blocks of a great society, improving understanding of others and self.
So, what got me going in the article? Here are the few words that made me start thinking:
(Dr. Seuss’) step-daughter, Lark Grey Dimond-Cates,… said she was informed a day earlier about the decision to pull the six books.
“I think in this day and age it’s a wise decision,” she said. “I think this is a world that right now is in pain, and we’ve all got to be very gentle and thoughtful and kind with each other. We’re taking that into account and being thoughtful. We don’t want to upset anybody.”
I submit to you that while she is certainly trying to be considerate, she is not being helpful. True, we should speak with other’s feelings in mind, but that does not include stifling differences. It is simply a matter of voicing them without anger or malice. Sometimes it’s even about kidding each other about them as friends often do!
Dr. Seuss told stories that were told in light of his time. The illustrations were made in the same vein. The stories overall are great lessons of consideration told by a man who cared very much about people’s relationships. ALL of his books should remain in print and even celebrated. Aspects that are no longer completely accurate, as in some of the drawings, can be teaching points about how things used to be, right or wrong. We should not ban our history. If we don’t, we are condemned to repeat it, right?
“We don’t want to upset anybody.” That is a good goal, but it should not cost us our right to freely express ourselves. It should not come with the price of burying history.
And there is something to be said for challenges and even adversity:
…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
Did someone hurt your feelings? This is an opportunity to grow in love and forgiveness. It is an opportunity for strength!
I once knew a US Navy commander and asked him about a suicide on an aircraft carrier. He told me it happens more often than makes the news. The reason behind most of them is that young men and women coming in have been coddled. They’re used to getting “participation trophies” and always feeling good, because parents and teachers sheltered them from any sort of hurt or adversity. They then found themselves ill-quipped to face the trials of life aboard a US warship.
Did Dr. Seuss draw a picture decades ago that manages to offend you today? Accept him for what a he was and what he accomplished with all his drawings and words. Respect it! Few of us have done as much for the world!