The recent news that the Dr. Seuss Foundation would cease publication of six books by the famed children's author and illustrator had a mixed response.
There were those who agreed with the conclusion of the Foundation that works such as ''And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street'' had caricatures which ''are hurtful and wrong.''
Many on the conservative side charged this was the latest case of a ''cancel culture'' that seeks to wipe out words and images that are ''no longer acceptable.''
Whatever the truth behind it, one fact remains: that Theodor Seuss Geisel, who wrote more than 60 books that have sold 700 million copies worldwide, was a fighting liberal Democrat who championed civil rights before it was popular.
From 1941-43, Seuss was a political cartoonist for the decidedly left-of-center New York newspaper PM. Along with drawing devastating caricatures of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, he continued to poke fun at aviator Charles Lindbergh and the America First Committee dedicated to keeping America out of the European War.
In an October 1941 cartoon, Dr. Seuss features a matronly woman labeled ''America First'' reading a bedtime story ''Adolf the Wolf'' to children and saying: ''… and the Wolf chewed up the children and spit out their bones. But those were foreign children and it really didn't matter.''
He particularly hit hard at what he considered Lindbergh and America First's contempt for the American Jewish community.
Dr. Seuss actively backed Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his bid for a fourth term. And, outside Black-run publications such as The Chicago Defender and the New York Amsterdam News, he may easily have been the lone cartoonist in the U.S. to illuminate and condemn segregation in the armed forces and war industry. Shortly after FDR issued an executive order in 1941 banning racial discrimination in the defense industries, a Dr. Seuss cartoon showed Uncle Sam glaring seriously at a defense plant —underscoring how long Black labor had been denied its rights.
''His cartoons portrayed the fear of communism as overstated,'' Chicago publisher Jameson Campaigne recalled to Newsmax.
Like many liberals, Seuss drew a target on the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA) and, as Campaigne put it, ''his cartoons portrayed the fear of communism as overstated, finding greater threats in [HCUA] and those who threatened to cut the United States' 'life line' to Stalin and the USSR, whom he once depicted as a porter carrying ‘our war load.'''
In later years, Seuss embraced environmentalism with The Lorax (''a kind of Silent Spring for the playground set,'' according to Nature Magazine) and nuclear disarmament. According to cartoonist Art Spiegelman, '''The Butter Battle Book' is a polemic for nuclear disarmament [and] created a blizzard of controversy when it first appeared in 1984.''
Writing in 2019 on ''The Surprisingly Radical Politics of Dr. Seuss'' for the BBC website, British TV presenter Fiona MacDonald observed that ''critics of rising American nationalism have shared Seuss's cartoons. The messages in his stories help explain the enduring power of Dr. Seuss as much as his humor and poetry.''
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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