I recently wrote the above story on Medium. It is a Friend’s Link so no worries about hitting a pay wall.
While I am not a huge fan of censorship, I am even more adamant about eliminating racism. And for this reason, I could not hold my tongue. When I read that some of the Dr. Seuss books were being pulled from the public, I had to investigate. After all, it was Dr. Seuss books which fueled my interest in poetry, right behind Poe. So, it was a shocker to learn about this removal of books. Of course, there is a big rush on book sales for the censored books. I must wonder what that is about, but this is not the place to research that.
With cancel culture at a high point, it is easy to simply say, I am not going to have anything to do with Dr. Seuss. Rid my shelves of his books. Well, that is easy enough as I do not have one single Dr. Seuss book on my shelves. But let us hold on for a moment. As that old worn-out cliché of “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” comes to mind, that is what seems to me to apply in this situation.
On the Seussville page of the Random House website dedicated to Dr. Seuss, there a statement about the removal of the six books: “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer.” Stating this is because: “These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”
Was Ted Geisel AKA Dr. Seuss indeed a racist man? After reading this well-written article on Dr. Seuss Art I learned a lot about how Ted Geisel evolved. And I had to reflect how, personally, I was also affected by the evolving of influences.
As a child and a baby boomer, I saw and heard so many expressions and artistic depictions of characters which would make my heart hurt. For many years, there were some expressions of which I was naïve, but once I learned what they meant, I no longer used them. Ironically, I also learned some expressions from people who were making jokes about their own heritage. What I did learn is that if you are of a certain culture and you make a joke about yourself, then that is retaining your own power, but do not tell that joke to anybody else, because it is hurtful, disrespectful. That is how I learned about self-deprecating humor. I have a hard time even uttering some expressions, such as in reading poetry and would rather not. It physically hurts my brain and heart.
As an in-home influencer, my father was heard making some expressions, but over the years he evolved. And when I read about Ted Geisel and how he evolved, I must believe it to be true. He was a military veteran, and he earned the highest honor of the Legion of Merit, same as my father did. Dad’s was for exemplary service throughout this military career. Both Dad and Geisel were praised for raising the morale of the troops.
Troops were of many races and cultures and I lived amongst all of these folks in school and in neighborhoods. And in these neighborhoods, the kids got close to each other. One of my first best friends was a black girl and her mother welcomed me, fed me, and encouraged the relationship as did my own mother. Mom had evolved, as well, as she grew up in a time when there were race wars and she was called “poor white trash” and had a scar from a brick hurled at her on the way to school. She did not fight back. She could have held that as a reason to hate, but she released it to us as a reason to love.
I am still mixed about my feelings about Ted Geisel, but I will always appreciate Dr. Seuss for those books which influenced me as a writer, and who helped me to expand my imagination, and to see possibilities with word play. There will be no books purchased by me. I have evolved, in a way, and this is because I no longer read Dr. Seuss, but if a child puts the book in my lap, it is pretty much a sign that it is time to read and to be sure and animate. But, if they happen to have a copy of a book with expressions or photos which are racially wrong, I will give them a good reason why it is a book which I do not support. And I do believe that education is the key to awareness and making each of our own decisions.
Slaves moved from the fields to the railroad jobs
not called by their name, but names they called them.
Working on the railroad was hard for blacks
they risked their lives jumping from car to car
the color of their skin ruled what they did
taking risks not really a choice, you see.
Laws kept the black man from more skilled jobs
even though they had exceptional skills.
Laying track though rough lands and tunnels too—
shovels, picks, axes, explosives were used.
Bring along the wheelbarrows, ropes, and mules
driving heavy spikes precisely trued up.
Precision was important for setting rails
no doubt any slight difference caused death.
Derailment came if not measured right
and the black man made sure others were safe.
Black prisoners had the riskiest jobs
often left to die when falling from cliffs.
Nothing to be said for their souls right then;
they considered them less than valued life,
and the way they became such laborers
did not match the crime or even confirmed.
A Pullman job was prestigious, true
but they treated them just like equipment.
Life back then, the way they treated black men,
inspired the movements of civil rights.
Sleeping Car Porters had a brotherhood
inspired by treatment of these nameless souls.
It would be many years before a change
many souls would march for their civil rights—
Randolph, King, Malcolm X to name just some
to step forth for souls until kingdom comes.
This poem was inspired from research I have done after learning of the black prisoners who lost their lives working for the railroads and the suspicious ways they came into being imprisoned. And for the treatment of railroad workers who went straight from slavery to continued enslavement, yet believing in a dream.
Happy TTOT and Fourth of July celebration week! May you have at least a virtual celebration with fireworks and all! Only, this year, you will need a mask and social distancing. Looks like some with do this with parking and watching and others will do it virtually. Be safe and mindful and it should go well.
- Opportunities to expand my reach. It’s a secret, but suffice it to say I have been given an opportunity to delve into something which I am familiar, but at another level of responsibility. It is exciting.
- Editing. I am editing a horror/murder mystery and it’s crawling my skin, but it is also very good in that it is crawling my skin and piquing my curiosity. Except, I know what happens and woooo weeee! That’s all I gotta say about that.
- Did you know it is World Watercolor Month? I found out about it in the Poet’s Connection meetup last Saturday. Here’s the LINK for info. I may get out my paints and give it a shot. Daily prompts are not likely to be my thing, but I can work on a project I have put off.
4. Poet’s Connection Meetup has been going well. We met last Saturday and it always makes me smile to get together with poets. We talked about Sonnets and shared some we wrote or found.
5. Daughter is back to volunteering. There are mom rules and thrift store rules she has to follow. She does love to do the work and right now her own job is slow. I am grateful she has this productive way to spend her time.
6. Tax season will be over July 15. With the exception of extension, that is. So, there is light at the end of the calculator.
7. Poetry Dive – I have participated in another Poetry Dive for the month of June. It is like a family reunion with this group as many of us are returning poets. Fortunately, I stay connected through other groups members are a part of and have become social media friends so we can stay connected. It is always sad to see it end. That means good things happened.
8. The IRS…huh? Yes, you heard me right! I am grateful that for the first time in a good while I was able to reach the IRS and talk to a real person about a matter. I feel answered and listened to and all is well.
9. Books. I am grateful to be able to read. It’s a blessing and I have several on a pile to dig into.
10. You! How are you doing? Won’t you join us with virtual S’Mores? Sit by the campfire and swap some yarns…
In the past couple of weeks-via Meetup-I have participated in Writing Sprints. It’s a pretty cool way to get things done, especially when you get sidetracked, like I do. It is not a new concept for me, but I had not participated in one in ages. A couple of writers and I were doing them consistently, but life changes and all, we departed. It’s all good, though. Recently, at a TAF Talks presentation by Donna Gephart, I learned about how she writes 25 minutes and then takes short breaks, then back to writing. So, I found the Sprints listed on Meetup and gave it a shot. They operate pretty much like that, too. And this morning, I searched on YouTube and there are live sprints. You can note in chat if you want to say something on there. I like the Zoom or Google meetings better so you can have more interaction. But, the YouTube option can be helpful, too. There’s one this month for NANOWRIMO for the summer camp version.So, thought I would share about these resources. It helped me and may be helpful to you.