FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IS
OUR MOST BASIC LIBERTY
My last post — about the Dr. Seuss controversy — stirred considerable interest. Quite a few people followed my link, from Facebook in particular, and then shared their thoughts (some of which I included under that post).
An air of absurdity has gathered around this situation, compounded by criticisms of Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, the Muppets, Mr. Potato Head, and other characters once considered kid-friendly and downright lovable.
For the most part, reader comments reflect a general skepticism about the assertion that stories and drawings enjoyed by children for generations should now be considered offensive.
The meme above, currently circulating on social media, captures an irony to which I alluded when I compared the Dr. Seuss objections with protests of a raunchy ’80s TV show, “Married…with Children.”
I understand the backlash over what seems, as I put it, “political correctness run amok.”
At the same time, I appreciate that inclusion of ethnic clichés and racial stereotypes in some Dr. Seuss books can rankle. The complaints about those images haven’t come out of thin air. Theodore Geisel (the real Dr. Seuss) actually did draw that stuff.
So I’m sympathetic to the umbrage which members of minority groups take at perceived ethnic slights. Believe me, in my lifetime I’ve heard all the vile racial expressions and the derogatory jokes, seen plenty of insulting images. These things were common currency when people in my age group were children.
Indeed, the casual racism perpetuated in the pop culture of that time — and maintained in the circles of our parents and their friends — was something we Baby Boomers came to consider rather shameful. It was a factor in the “Youth Rebellion” that marked the ’60s.
But the sensitivity we’re seeing today strikes me as disproportionate to what’s happening now. Who, aside from the most fringe characters, makes a public display of bigotry these days?
It doesn’t take Cancel Culture to protect minority honor. During the past five decades or so, a sea change in attitude has occurred in the consideration of interracial behavior. People know that racist posturing is unacceptable. Nobody sane or civilized questions that.
Same thing with Feminist complaints. Controversy over Pepé Le Pew’s amorous extremes follows on the absurd brouhaha over “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” which punctuated the Christmas music season of a few years back.
Nobody asserts a right to sexual aggression. Nobody thinks that so-called “rape culture” is a dandy idea.
When passions over such concerns roil the media the way these have — and it is primarily a media phenomenon — you have to suspect there are other motives in play. And, as this meme would suggest, people all over the country do think that.
A tremendous anger is building. Do you sense it?
After a year of health panic, after an election whose results are (to say the least) questionable, after the contrived “Capitol Riot” (America’s version of the Reichstag fire), after the quick roll-out of a whole shopping list of neo-Bolshevik initiatives, after we’ve watched our government become the laughing stock of the world in less than two months, it’s only mildly surprising that children’s books, toys, and cartoon animals should be the straws that threaten to break the proverbial camel’s back.
For me, the bottom line in this whole business is free expression. After all, that’s what my radio show / podcast is called: “Free Expression with Bill Kassel.” Speaking out on behalf of our most basic liberty is what I consider my mission at this point.
We must reassert the primacy of First Amendment rights. Because, sorry as I am that some neurotic people might sinfully abuse those rights to demean their fellow human beings, freedom is more important than feelings.
It’s no coincidence that the Founding Fathers paired freedom of speech with freedom of religion. The two are intertwined and interdependent.
Freedom shields us in the living out of our faith. But even those who proclaim no faith at all have a stake in it. As I’ve pointed out in the past…
The freedom to believe is the same as the freedom not to believe.
Freedom is the essence of our national way of life. Freedom is America.
Right now, under the onslaught of “wokeness,” our freedoms are slipping away. If we lose them entirely, everyone will suffer.
America, as we’ve known it, will be gone.
Even Dr. Seuss’ nasty old “Grinch” couldn’t think of anything nastier than that.
Fortunately, the American sense of humor is still functional. Social nets are alive with memes touching on various implications of the current sensitivity over images — such as this play on “PC” terminology…
Here someone adopts the Dr. Seuss style to strike a blow for freedom…
Another would-be Geisel takes a more direct shot at Joe Biden…
Joe comes in for another jab, as this image compares his affectionate nature with that of Pepé Le Pew. Interestingly, the girl cat seems happier about Pepé’s approach…
A little Photoshop work yields a wry comment on the delicate feelings of the “woke” crowd…
And here’s a blast from our Baby Boomer past — a tribute to the beloved Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Magazine. It recalls a time when we were able to see both humor and commonality in all ethnic types…
One wonders if even Mad Magazine would attempt such a cover today.
Here’s the link to my last post…
Objections to Dr. Seuss have come to light with the recent cancelling of those six titles mentioned in my last post. But the controversy has actually been building for several years. Back in 2019, Gabriel Smith, a program associate with the organization, Teaching Tolerance, wrote an article titled “It’s Time to Talk About Dr. Seuss” for the journal, Learning for Justice. Smith’s analysis of the Dr. Seuss “Sneetches” characters provides a fascinating insight into the “progressive” mindset…
“The solution to the story’s conflict is that the Plain-Belly Sneetches and Star-Bellied Sneetches simply get confused as to who is oppressed. As a result, they accept one another. This message of ‘acceptance’ does not acknowledge structural power imbalances. It doesn’t address the idea that historical narratives impact present-day power structures. And instead of encouraging young readers to recognize and take action against injustice, the story promotes a race-neutral approach.”
Perhaps I’m too worried about the curtailment of free expression. Writing on the website, LGBTQ Nation, social justice education specialist Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld dismisses the very idea of Cancel Culture…
“‘Cancel culture’ is a term the Right invented to organize its minions against progressive policies and actions.” he writes. “It is a term that is meant to provide justification for continuing its oppression and dominance against those of us and our movement(s) attempting to end the forms of oppression and provide more equality and equity.”
Noelle Mering, author of Awake, Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology, offers some perceptive insights into why Dr. Seuss has become a target of the Left. First of all…
“…it prompts us to suspect that if Dr. Seuss can be a racist (without even knowing it!) then likely all of our society and history is hopelessly racist.”
“…it prompts us to become suspicious of ourselves. ‘I grew up loving Dr. Seuss,’ you might think. ‘How did I overlook this racism? What else am I not seeing now?’ No longer able to trust ourselves makes us more docile to the totalizing coercion of the woke mob.”
Annie Holmquist, editor of the journal, Intellectual Takeout, sees “wokeness” as a cover for despotism, and she challenges her readers to oppose it…
“…can you raise questions? Can you engage in discussion with your friend, neighbor, or relative, discussing ideas that may be uncomfortable or politically incorrect? Can you do so not in a mean or demeaning way, but in an eager and interested fashion? Can you share information on social media, through email, and via other venues not with the goal of engaging in ad hominem arguments, but in a way which encourages others to think and grow?”