Photo Credit: Asher Schwartz

Dr. Seuss is the latest victim of US intolerance. Of all things I could imagine, Dr. Seuss? Beloved part of my childhood, nightly companion as I read my children to sleep. Dr. Seuss. He encouraged my children to try new foods (Green Eggs and Ham) and not to be too prideful (The Big Boast). He entertained them, twisted our tongues and taught us so much.

His audience was children, but not really. Dr. Seuss’ greatest messages were for adults (The Butter Battle Book, Yertle the Turtle, Gertrude McFuzz, and so much more). I’ve tolerated much over the last year of nasty politics and insanity, but somehow this is what broke me. Dr. Seuss? Really? Have you lost your minds?

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In the US today, an unbecoming and frightening atmosphere pervades much of the culture and society. It is hard to determine when it began, but subtlety no longer exists. No one hides their intolerance, their bigotry, their greed and corruption. What would Dr. Seuss say about a society that celebrates shutting down the voice of the President of the United States (and no, it doesn’t matter that it was Donald Trump)? It means nothing that politicians credit Facebook and Twitter rather than their own offices and misguided actions.

As Voltaire said long ago, “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” On this, I grew up. This, and Dr. Seuss.

First you silence the President, then you erase history, then you silence Dr. Seuss? That Americans aren’t upset and terrified by this is shattering and terrifying. In truth, I’ve always enjoyed his books but when I read “The Butter Battle Book” that I purchased for my children but never read to them, I realized his absolute brilliance…

Yertle the Turtle was the ultimate lesson for a dictator. Abuse others, and you’ll find yourself face down in the mud. That simple, a message to leaders. And now, from his grave, Dr. Seuss delivers a message to us all. When you silence a voice or are silent to that silencing, you break a vital trust in your society. I do not recognize the America that exists today, and that frightens and saddens me greatly.

We watched the fall of the Soviet Union and were not surprised. Today, I believe, deep in my soul, we are watching the fall of the United States…nothing less. And it crushes my heart and soul. Gone is the possibility to disagree with someone politely and to discuss. Everything is so nasty in the country of the red, white and blue. Denigrated are the heroes…lost is the unity.

I don’t care about Joe Biden or Donald Trump. Yes, I can’t stand Biden.. No, I don’t much like Donald Trump, though yes, I appreciated his raw (yes, and sometimes crude) manner. But the level of fake that personifies Joe Biden and his victory has been elevated to holy in the United States. And now that fakeness shows its claws by silencing its adversaries.

A few years ago, my youngest son spent a few months in the States after his army service. I feared that he’d “fall” for the shopping and the openness of the country I remembered. Going outside Israel offers a bit of a shock each time. Even native-born Israelis get tired of always watching, always thinking. It’s so amazing to walk through an open marketplace and not think once of any danger. It’s wonderful to walk in Venice, Amsterdam, Athens and London and not once assess, watch, or consider the potential that the backpack on the floor could be a bomb, that the man over there, young and watching, is planning something. That is the pull for many of our young and I worried as he explored with his friends.

So I spoke to my son regularly and listened to what he was telling me. The US is much larger than Israel. In just days, he drove 10 times the size of little Israel. The colors were so green. The grass is soaking wet in the morning. The land very beautiful. “As beautiful as Israel?” I asked him carefully. Different, he said, and I smiled because at 16, I thought the very same thing.

And then I asked him about the people. They are so polite, he told me. And, he added, he preferred the openness of Israelis, the directness, to the fake and so very politically correct Americans. Even then, a few years ago.

You just know where you stand, when you speak to Israelis. More, when you put the most left and the most right Israeli together, they’ll end the conversation with laughing and sometimes even a hug. The distance between us isn’t so great that we forget we need each other. Always, there is the reality that we stand alone in the world, so as Israelis, we stand together.

All this and more, I thought of when “they” removed six of Dr. Seuss’ books, lest they offend. Perhaps, as a writer, I can suggest that offending is not the most serious offense but rather, indifference is. Over the last few months, I have become less and less interested in voicing my opinions (perhaps to the delight of many). This too is a danger. We must be vigilant, and we must be vocal.

The childish need to endlessly fight those who dare to express an opposing opinion is, I believe, more dangerous than the communism of the Soviet Union. When it is my way or no way to the point of demanding the silence of those who disagree with you, don’t be surprised when you end up with the Soviet mentality on your doorsteps, broadcast on your news stations, and spouted forth from the White House and elsewhere.

I have seen the word “fascism” bantered around on Facebook lately. The Israeli government is fascist because it has purchased and established a program that enables every citizen of Israel (yes, Arab and Jew despite what the morons on Saturday Night Live tell you). Silencing the President is good, silencing a doctor who promotes a treatment other than the vaccine is fascism. Trump was a fascist. Biden is a fascist. What is missing in all these discussions is that the greater threat posed by censorship.

Oh what a mess, we have made of this thing,

Oh what a loss we should feel.

Silence was never a thing to be given,

Honesty and truth we should have made real.

Gone are the days when the world went around

And nowhere can the land we love be found

The cat in the hat has left our fair shore

And here we are left, abandoned and poor.

Yertle has risen above and beyond

The fox now lurks on the edges of the pond

And in the lands he created, so many now mourn

Having lost their right to speak, they stand forlorn.

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Paula R. Stern is the co-founder of Retraining4Israel (www.retraining4israel.com), a new organization working to help olim make aliyah successful. Paula made aliyah over 25 years ago with her husband and their three children. She lives in Maale Adumim and is often referred to as “A Soldier’s Mother”. She is now a happy wife, mother of five (including two sabras), and grandmother, happily sharing her voice and opinions with others. She is also a senior tech writer and lead training instructor at WritePoint Ltd. (www.writepoint.com).