Or Happy Gafumpleduck day or whatever it’s called in Seussville Heaven. If the good doctor had still been with us, he would be 108 today. Just putting that out there for no particular reason.
Noting that Theodore Geisel’s day of recognition was coming up tomorrow, we read Green Eggs and Ham and our personal favorite: Fox in Socks. Finishing that, we pulled out a book of his World War II cartoons and shot a few pictures to share.
Dr. Seuss was quite the nationalist. His unflagging support for the war effort and his vicious attacks on the members of the Axis pulled no punches. The cartoons are rife with ethnic insults and stereotypes. We can’t imagine a lot of civility existed in an era of world-wide military aggression and mass genocide, so while the vicious stereotyping of a particular people is unfortunate, we feel no regret for the portrayal of Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Both were bastards in their own right. Having said that, Seuss’ xenophobia took a bad turn with regards to the Japanese. Unlike Germany and Italy where everyone was subordinate to the two maniacs, there was no clear evil tyrant running the show (was it Emperor Hirohito, Prime Minister Tojo, the supreme military command, individual sadists that ran roughshod over China and other Asian countries, commanders of prisoner of war camps?). Generally speaking, Seuss chose to use Tojo as the iconographic image of the Axis of Evil’s Japanese leg. His depictions were overtly racist, exaggerating Asian features and adding false stereotypes. The racial stereotypes weren’t the only problem. Some of Seuss’ work were complicit in fomenting American paranoia against the Japanese-American population. The shameful and illegal malignment, and incarceration of our citizens is highly offensive today but should have been back then too (and it was to many Americans who realized the resentment and fear was ill-founded). We get that in times of war elements of society require special scrutiny but it’s a dangerous thing to suspend individual freedom and it’s morally wrong to do it against an entire segment of the population.
Dr. Seuss Goes to War contains dozens of political cartoons demonstrating Seuss’ support for President Franklin Roosevelt, his disdain for isolationists (people that preferred thinking of the war as an Asian or European problem in which the U.S. had no right or need to intervene), and general support for the Allies. It’s interesting to note that he was soft on the USSR and its terrible leader, Joseph “Small Balls” Stalin. War can make some strange bedfellows. It’s easy to see in retrospect that certain alliances make sense at a specific time but are not such good ideas in the long run. Kind of like the American support in the 1980s of the Afghan Mujahideen in its struggle against the Soviets. Years later, the Soviets had turned tail and the Afghan militarists took the ample weaponry and training supplied by the American C.I.A., and turned their attention to the infidel dogs of the West. Whoops. It’s said that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” … that is, until my enemy is dead and a new one is desired (hey, everybody loves to hate someone). When we think about American support for the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Fulgencio Batista, Augusto Pinnochet, Manuel Noriega, Husni Mubarak … the list goes on, we wonder why democracy is so good for us but not so much for others (the answer deserves thinking so we’ll leave that to you, oh dear reader). At least our leadership has a good track record of supporting these horrible people until it’s not convenient, after which we invade their countries. God Bless America. Save us from the idiots we naively choose to elect.
Anyway, on to the political cartoons of Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel in Dr. Seuss Goes to War.