Dr. Seuss Museum Channels Its Inner Taliban

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/01/25/dr-seuss-museum-channels-its-inner-taliban/

The removal of a mural showing a classic illustration from the Dr. Seuss museum in Springfield is a sad example of how surrendering to the forces of emotional hypochondria leads to irrelevance.

In October, three children’s authors cancelled a scheduled joint appearance at The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum because a mural from Dr. Seuss’s 1937 book And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street showed an image from the book of a Chinese man wearing a traditional hat eating noodles from a bowl with chopsticks.

The authors released a statement calling the image “a form of racism,” along with other absurdities, such as this:  “For some children who visit the museum, their only form of interaction with Asian representation might be that painting.”

Yeah, right. And those same impressionable kids probably think that China depends on the Dragon Warrior from Kung Fu Panda for national defense.

As Marco’s dad says in Dr. Seuss’s book:

Stop telling such outlandish tales
Stop turning minnows into whales

Mulberry Street is about a boy imagining the world beyond his own neighborhood by focusing on an ordinary horse and wagon and envisioning all manner of animals and people instead. Eventually a Chinese man joins Irish cops, an Indian rajah, a farmer, a magician, musicians, politicians, an airplane pilot, an elephant, and two giraffes in a riot of color and commotion.

In short, it’s about expanding your world and letting in the extraordinary, even if all you see in front of you is the ordinary.

Unfortunately, caving in to the PC police these days isn’t extraordinary. It’s more like a horse and wagon on Mulberry Street.

And it’s sad because the conflict is silly. The Chinese man image isn’t pejorative. In fact, he’s a happy sort of fellow – a far cry from the sinister yellow-peril, evil-plotting images of Chinese people common in America in the 19th and early 20th centuries. From an ethno-sensitivity point of view, you could argue that Dr. Seuss’s image in 1937 represented progress.

But you can’t argue anything if you can’t see it.

Which brings us to the Taliban. The comparison works to a point, but as is so often the case with Internet articles, the headline of this one is misleading. When the Taliban dynamited two giant 1,500-year-old Buddhist statues in Afghanistan in 2001, it was widely decried as an attack on history, culture, and art. And so it was. But they had a reason for doing it:  they imagined the statues to be idolatrous, and that allowing them to continue to exist would have been an affront to God.

They were wrong, both in theory and action. But at least there’s a sort of logic to their approach, and at least it was in the imagined service of their creator.

Where is the logic in removing the Mulberry Street mural? What worthy cause is served by bowdlerizing Dr. Seuss?

This unhappy ending amounts to a triple shame for the proprietors of the museum, who obviously spent a lot of time putting exhibits together and who apparently didn’t see anything racist about the mural until a few authors decided to be offended.

First there’s the gratingness of backing down. Springfield’s mayor, Domenic Sarno, called the authors’ attack on the mural “political correctness at its worst” – and perhaps the people who created the original exhibit agree.

Second is the lost opportunity for children, many of them from Dr. Seuss’s hometown of Springfield, to see a classic image in large form from a story inspired by Theodore Seuss Geisel’s own neighborhood.

Third is the loss in marketing. Imagine a museum standing tall against unreasonable critics and refusing to remove a piece of art. Imagine the conflict, imagine the reaction, and imagine the publicity. Who wouldn’t want to go to a museum like that?

Instead:  sanitization. Ho hum.

Let’s envision instead a picket line of shrill leftists holding infantile signs shouting slogans – being crossed by hundreds of patrons eager to visit the exhibits inside and even become life members of the Dr. Seuss museum. In the vision, for every virtue-signaling self-important author boycotting a literature festival at the museum, there are three willing to come and read books to children in a place dedicated to a master teller of children’s tales.

Also in the vision every board member and staff member comes to the museum filled with pride of accomplishment, not only at celebrating an artist but in standing up for freedom against microtyrannies.

As Marco says after his adventure in the book …

I swung ‘round the corner
And dashed through the gate,
I ran up the steps
And I simply felt GREAT!

For I had a story that NO ONE could beat!
And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street!