The Political Philosophy of Dr. Seuss
The Sneetches and Yertle the Turtle | 2020
So Jon Carpenter and myself have been having some laughs over Dr. Suess. It seems that a few rhyming lines in an email can do that to people. Who can forget, “I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am…I do not like them with a fox, I do not like them in a box…”…and on and on it goes. There are however, two stories by Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Suess that provide a keen observation of political philosophy and human nature. You should understand that Suess considered himself a progressive yet he also believed strongly in individual freedom. The two stories would of course be The Sneetches and Yertle the Turtle.
In the story of The Sneetches, it seems that Star Belly Sneetches saw themselves as superior to Sneetches without “Stars upon thars.” And the Sneetches without “stars upon thars,” felt inferior which lead them to covet the very things they hated.
“Now the Star-bellied Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-bellied Sneetches had none upon thars.
The stars weren’t so big; they were really quite small.
You would think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.
But because they had stars, all the Star-bellied Sneetches
would brag, ‘We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.’ ”
Off course both groups fell for the huckster, demagogue, “Sylvester McMonkey McBean, who uses their differences against both groups, for the sole purpose of self-empowerment and profit. Hmmm, sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
“‘My friends,’ he announced in a voice clear and keen,
‘My name is Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
I’ve heard of your troubles; I’ve heard you’re unhappy.
But I can fix that; I’m the fix-it-up chappie.
I’ve come here to help you; I have what you need.
My prices are low, and I work with great speed,
and my work is one hundred per cent guaranteed.’ ”
As the story unfolds the Sneetches come to realize they have been conned by Sylvster McMonkey McBean. That he only cared about their differences in order to exploit them in his scheme to gain power and make money. In the end the Sneetches see, after they all have been scammed by the flim, flam man, that there are no real differences between Sneetches, and what counts is what is below the feathered exterior of their physical bodies. Sadly for the Sneetches, they learn this lesson long after they haver been duped out of all their money.
“Then, when every last cent of their money was spent,
the Fix-It-Up-Chappie packed up and he went.
And he laughed as he drove in his car up the beach,
They never will learn; no, you can’t teach a Sneetch!”
“But McBean was quite wrong, I’m quite happy to say,
the Sneetches got quite a bit smarter that day.
That day, they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches,
and no kind of Sneetch is the BEST on the beaches.
That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars,
and whether they had one or not upon thars.”
So who do you think is hustler McBean in on our very own 2020 Sneetches Beach?
Yertle the Turtle is even darker than The Sneetches, if that is possible. Yertle is the would be dictator, a king of the his turtle pond and he makes all of his fellow turtles climb on each other’s backs until he can see beyond the pond and to the wide world around him which he immediately declares is his. Everything he sees is what he covets and he doesn’t care who he has to climb on top of to get it. This story was actually written by Suess as a metaphor for a Hitler type dictator, but the same theme works for communists and tyrants of all stripes, and even those who have steered America’s disastrous foreign policy for several decades. Its all about concentrated power, and bullying tactics, all overwhelming individual freedom. Doesn’t anybody in the country remember the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson, or even the beloved Dr. Suess? Is the enlightenment dead; is man not born free? Are we to become cogs or cattle, to be chipped, or phone zombies all controlled from above? That’s odd…I’m actually feeling the weight of little turtle feet on my back as I’m writing this!
Both of the animated versions of these books can be found on YouTube. Why not check them out before you vote! Links at windhamnhhistory.org
You can watch the Sneetches on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/PdLPe7XjdKc
You can watch Yertle the Turtle on YouTube. https://youtu.be/kLgdDPoaz-I