March 2 marks what would have been the 111th birthday of cartoonist and author Theodor Geisel, better known to everyone as Dr. Seuss. As the Washington Post reports,
For the last 18 years, Dr. Seuss's birthday has been the occasion for the annual "Read Across America Day," an event sponsored by the National Education Association in partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises. Millions of students traditionally participate as their schools host Seuss readings in what is billed by the NEA as the "nation's largest reading observance."
I don't know of anyone under the age of 60 who isn't extremely conversant with Seuss's works and whose childhood (and parenting) hasn't been made easier by them. Yet even as sanctified a figure as the author of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas! and Green Eggs & Ham has a few dark chapters in his past.
You may recall that during his long September 2013 speech against Obamacare, Sen. Ted Cruz read from Green Eggs & Ham and was pilloried for doing so. Politico called up experts on the good doctor to inveigh against Cruz's appropriation of such a sacred text. As one prof said, "Seuss was a liberal Democrat and he would not have much patience for people like Mr. Cruz."
But it's also worth remembering that Seuss maligned Japanese Americans in particularly caustic ways during World War II:
…As a good "liberal Democrat" and FDR fanboy, Seuss was particularly big on interning citizens of Japanese-American descent. And that he liked to draw them with buckteeth and round glasses—just like Tojo had!—even as he drew cartoons against other forms of racial prejudice (read Dr. Seuss Goes to War for more on the topic).
To his credit, Seuss apologized after the war for engaging in racist hysteria. Horton Hears a Who is widely read as an apology for his role in stoking anti-Japanese sentiments and his story about "the Sneetches" is taught in the Southern Poverty Law Center's "teaching tolerance" curriculum."