Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
In case you haven't read about it or seen news of it this week, you may have heard Dr. Seuss Enterprises has decided to stop printing six books that show images insensitive and racist. Please keep in mind Dr. Seuss Enterprises is the one who made the call, not an organization or group vehemently opposed to the books. Despite the facts, much of the blame was placed on 'Cancel Culture', a modern day version of expulsion from the pop-culture village focusing on 'kicking out' a person or group with views that are hurtful to that village whether it be cultural, sexual-oriented, or otherwise.
Let's be clear here; Dr. Seuss Enterprises which oversees the works of the late, great Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) made the decision to 'self-cancel' their own books, no one else. Funny how in this era where social media is everything, there seems to be no room for an individual or organization to be redeemed of their past sins. It is the belief of those who hold fast this philosophy that once the offender commits the atrocity, they will not change ever. Based on the offender's past (and present) behavior, they must be 'cancelled' as if there is no way for them to ever make amends with those they offended. For the record, I have a difficult time with this point of view. I do believe all human beings no matter their race, culture, creed, or sexual orientation are flawed. No one is perfect, and unless you spent time hanging from a metaphorical cross, chances are you are not perfect.
Cancel Culture implies that you must adhere to this current generation's way of thinking; to show respect for the next person regardless of race or gender, to have the freedom you love who you wish to love, just to enjoy life to the fullest. Nothing wrong with those viewpoints, but let's say for instance if a well-known author posts online about a certain biological function that only she and her fellow gender endures, it wonât be long until the metaphorical torches and pitchforks come out, just in the case of this well-known author who was only stating an opinion (funny how we don't believe in that word anymore).
As mentioned, we all have flaws. Each and every one of us typing this out or reading this essay. We are not perfect. I can imagine if Cancel Culture existed back then, would the late governor of Alabama George Wallace be targeted? He was a staunch segregationist who was known for declaring, 'segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever'. Later in life, a bullet paralyzed him. Shirley Chisholm, a U.S. House of Representatives member visited Wallace in the hospital despite their differences in race and political ideology. According to this account, Ms. Chisholm and Wallace had their differences, no cancellations needed. Instead, she reached out to him to find the commonality in their humanity. According to this section in the linked article:
The congresswoman recounted that she told Wallace âI wouldnât want what happened to you to happen to anyone,â and that the governor âcried and criedâ in response. She added that, despite their profound disagreements on fundamental issues like racial equality, she agreed with Wallaceâs criticisms of âthe domination of corporate institutionsâÂÂ¦and unresponsiveness of the Government to the people.â (Source: History.com)
Imagine if that were us instead of Ms. Chisholm that day. Would we even have bothered to go to the hospital, or would we let Mr. Wallace lay there satisfied we stayed away? Today's current mindset would have cancelled Wallace and just leave him there, referencing the hateful, hurtful rhetoric he spewed. If Ms. Chisholm adapted today's Cancel Culture mindset, she would have missed the turnaround Wallace made:
In the late 1970s, Wallace announced that he was a born-again Christian and apologized to black civil rights leaders for his past actions as a segregationist. He said that while he had once sought power and glory, he realized he needed to seek love and forgiveness. In 1979, Wallace said of his stand in the schoolhouse door: "I was wrong. Those days are over, and they ought to be over." He publicly asked for forgiveness from black people. (Source: Wikipedia)
George Wallace. A man who today would have been cancelled without limit realized the mistakes he made in expressing his segregationist views. Fortunately, he found the willingness to change his heart and his outlook on race. While he is to be commended for his change of direction, kudos must also be given to Representative Shirley Chisholm for reaching out to Wallace although she was different from him in terms of race and gender. Cancel Culture doesn't allow room for this human experience to learn, grow and develop into a better man or woman than we were before. This current generation believes it's cool to cancel anyone, any online users due to the views they post or words said in the general media. We believe there is no recourse, no forgiveness, they are mired in their sin and will never free themselves from it.
This is wrong. We may be unrepentant pieces of flesh, but we do have the right to be forgiven and to forgive. Although it may be in vogue to disagree and cancel anyone who has a different point of view, but we as a human race need to understand mistakes will be made. It's part of our continual growth as a species. Iâm not saying that the historical rogues who stuck with one philosophy, one goal of ruling the world (or even the country) should be redeemed, that's not up to us. History over time will be the judge. What we can say is that we should hope for the person or organization will change their points of view and 'make the pivot' they desperately need. Imagine if Mr. Wallace was never paralyzed at all and continued in his ways? Yes, he may be looked at as the same fiery segregationist we watched via movie clips and past interviews. He changed for the better, trying to undo his years of discriminatory practices and actions.
Perhaps if we just slow down and realize each and every one of us has different thoughts, different lives, we live in different states, we're just different period. A man or woman living in Iowa or Georgia doesn't have the same concerns as a person living in New York or this writer who lives in California. We all have opinions of how we should live this life and holding on to our political beliefs. Cancelling a well-known author isn't going to change the way folks who believe her point of view of a woman's biological process, nor will it change those who want to cancel her for expressing that. Cancel Culture is a philosophy that does not take into account a person never holds on to their views forever. They change like we all do. Maybe we should be like Ms. Chisholm and attempt to reach out to those who are the opposite instead of huddling with our tribes who provide us with the ideological space we need. If we cancelled everyone we disagree with, we rob them and ourselves of the growth we both desperately need.