Oh Boy, We Need To Talk About This GRINCH Act, Because It Is ... Well, It's Something.

Culture Wars

We are now on Day 26 of Seussgate, and there is no end in sight.

For weeks, we have been subjected to incoherent ramblings and various PR campaigns that rely on people aggressively refusing to find out what actually happened and instead making up their own fictional narrative of the situation. One in which, magically, progressives across the country got together and somehow made it illegal or otherwise impossible to publish six Dr. Seuss books, several of which none of us has even heard of. The process is rarely explained, of course. All they know is we categorically hate Dr. Seuss for some reason they are unable to comprehend and we are out to destroy not only him but their very childhoods.

It's probably Joe Biden's fault for not giving Fox talking heads enough things to yell about.


Nevertheless, we have now hit the legislative episode in this adventure, as Rep. John Joyce (R-Pa) is planning to introduce the Guarding Readers' Independence and Choice (GRINCH) Act — named after one of the Dr. Seuss characters they keep insisting we are mad at and trying to ban. The legislation will "prohibit states and local government agencies from receiving funding under the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program if they ban books," which is nowhere close to what actually went down in this the whole Seussituation. Because it was Dr. Seuss Enterprises itself that decided to stop publishing the books with racist imagery.

You will notice that those mad about this whole thing rarely mention the whole "racist imagery" thing, because it's just better if they act like we're banning One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish because it is offensive to the colorblind.

The irony here is just incredible, given that people who are ever actually out there trying to ban books are conservatives who think Harry Potter is going to make their kids worship Satan or become elves or whatever it is they are afraid of. It's certainly not liberals going around trying to ban AP English classes across the country from reading Toni Morrison's Beloved or being mad that the school library carries a copy of Heather Has Two Mommies. We're certainly not the ones making it hard for science teachers to teach evolution in peace.

As much as conservatives like to cry about cancel culture, they are the ones constantly claiming that they need to be able to protect their children from like ... finding out that gay people exist or what birth control is.

And it does appear that Joyce understands this, judging by the text of the bill:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this subpart, except as provided in subsection (b), a State or local educational agency that has in place any law or policy that prohibits the availability of books or other written materials to students, teachers, or schools within such State or local educational agency based on a determination that such books or materials contain offensive or outdated language or images shall not be eligible to receive funds under this subpart.[...]

Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a State or local educational agency from prohibiting the availability of books or other written materials that contain obscene or pornographic text or images or content that is harmful to minors.

It's certainly bold of him to imply that racist imagery is neither obscene nor harmful to minors. I do not have kids, but if I did, I feel like I'd be a lot more comfortable with said kids seeing a pair of boobs than I would be with them just casually happening upon an extremely racist caricature of Asian people while they're trying to learn to read.

Hell, I'm a grown woman and I am still trying to wrap my head around the time we stopped at a gas station/gift shop in Tennessee that had half an aisle full of racist tea sets, as it had simply never occurred to me that racist tea sets would be a thing that would exist and that people would buy and take out when they had company that wanted a cup of Earl Grey, trusting that said company would not be like "Oh my god, why is your tea set racist? What is wrong with you?"

See? Not over it. Also not over the time I watched Babes In Arms on Turner Classic Movies as a kid and found out why my mom did not let me watch that particular Judy Garland movie. I have, however, seen lots of boobs, including my own. I am not still trying to process any of the boobs that I have seen. Ergo, boobs are less traumatizing than racist imagery is.

Joyce went on Fox News on Friday to discuss his bill with Dana Perino, and boy did it lack any sense of self awareness at all.

He said, and I quote ...

If you find that these books are offensive to your children, then the parents should be the ones who make that decision. Government should not be making that.

Oh really! That is very, very interesting in light of what conservatives have been saying for decades regarding sex education in schools. And also literally every other "culture war" issue regarding public education since the beginning of public education. School prayer! Can't have parents be in charge of that! Nope, government's gotta force all of the kids to pray at school, whether or not they believe in the Christian God.

We have to understand that we cannot turn back and ban great historic people, great historic images that are part of our childhood. There are important lessons in these books.

Yeah. Name one thing that happened in any of those Dr. Seuss books other than the Mulberry St. one. And what about these images is "great?" Which is his favorite? I think we'd all like to know.

Of course, this is not about censorship, it's not even about preserving things that are deeply problematic but still have artistic merit of some kind. It's not a production of Madama Butterfly. It's about the fact that these people are just absolutely terrified to live in a world where no kind of racism is acceptable, because they do not know how to exist in that world. They're not even comfortable with or smart enough to appreciate things from years ago while also openly and frankly discussing the issues with them. There can be no nuance.

It has to be "These things are great and perfect in every way, unless they are still too progressive for us, in which case it is fine for us to be mad at them. Not you."

"It's one thing to be mad at Gone With The Wind because Scarlett is a hussy who doesn't respect her husband, it's another to be mad at it for being racist!" — Some wingnut somewhere, probably.

They're also focusing on kids' books because they are scared by the idea of kids who are not even inured to that level of racism growing up and making the world even harder for them to exist in, making it even more likely that history will not look upon them kindly. They could always just stop being assholes, but that never quite seems to be in the cards for these types.

It is, of course, also about the fact that they really don't have much else to talk about these days.

But you do! So this is your OPEN THREAD.

[John Joyce]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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