Today is Read Across America day, which is held on the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Nearly everyone has read at least one of his books; my personal favorite has always been The Lorax. But there is another side to Dr. Seuss, one that isn’t often seen.
Back in the early 1940s, Theodor Geisel was a political cartoonist for a New York daily newspaper known as PM. During the Second World War, he drew quite a few patriotic cartoons. Most were anti-Hitler and pro-War Bond. However, some of these cartoons were more than a little disturbing and downright racist. For example:
This was published after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Those aren’t foreign Japanese; they are American Japanese. The implication? You couldn’t trust “one of them J-ps”. They could and would betray the United States, as their loyalties were to the Japanese empire.
Yes, Dr. Seuss got caught up in the racist hysteria that led to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Thankfully, the good doctor learned from his mistake; Horton Hears a Who! was written after Theodor Geisel spent some time in Japan after the War. Some believe that this was his way of apologizing. I can believe that.
So why bring this up? It’s seventy years old; why make a big deal about this now? Simple. Dr. Seuss was human. He wasn’t perfect. He had prejudices and made poor judgments in his earlier years, just like everyone else. However, he tried to learn from those mistakes. He tried to be a better person, despite what he had done in the past.
It’s a good lesson to learn and something worth remembering. We all screw up. But it’s how we face those mistakes and learn from them that shows how much we’ve grown. If Dr. Seuss can admit he was wrong, so can you.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a copy of The Lorax that needs to be read. I think I’ll follow that up with Green Eggs and Ham…