Lately, I can't stop myself from thinking about Sneetches. Remember them? As any young reader would love to tell you:
Now, the Star-Belly SneetchesTruth be told, though, it's not really the Sneetches I've been thinking about. My mind actually keeps wandering off to another character, the "fix-it-up chappie" named Sylvester McMonkey McBean. When I was a kid, I don't think I really gave him much thought. I was much more focused on stars, and thars, and Sneetches. But decades later, I realize the entire sad story was "enabled" (to borrow a great psycho-analytic term) by the actions of this McBean character. He is the driving force on which the entire tale hinges; he sees an opportunity to personally benefit from the (what is the word? conflict? rivalry? partisan bickering?) between "the haves" and "the have nots", and then acts upon it.
Had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches
Had none upon thars.
Those stars weren't so big. They were really so small
You might think such a thing wouldn't matter at all.
Lately, when I think of McBean, I keep thinking of the Koch brothers. Actually, it's the other way round: the Koch brothers keep reminding me of McBean (and I seem to keep hearing about them, for example here and here and especially here). Follow me below the squiggle for more ...
Wikipedia tells me "'The Sneetches' was intended by Seuss as a satire of discrimination between races and cultures, and was specifically inspired by his opposition to antisemitism." Interesting. As a kid, I figured out the "races and cultures" part on my own, I hadn't known about the antisemitism until writing this diary (isn't serendipity great?) But for the life of me, I keep seeing Sneetches in terms of Republicans and Democrats.
But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly SneetchesI never liked those Star-Belly Sneetches, not as a child and not now. When McBean comes along with his first marvelous machine, he seems like such a good guy. I admit it, I liked him at first, finally giving "equal rights" to all the poor Plain-Belly children ... When the Star-Belly crowd becomes upset that nobody can tell who was who anymore, I blamed them the most for being such snobs and being so heartless. Why can't they be happy for the old Plain-Belly Sneetches? Why is it so important for them to feel superior to others? The root cause of the strife, my not-yet-an-engineer-ing mind reasoned back then, was ultimately the dark nature of those on team Star-Belly. And a part of my brain still believes that, I guess. I often find the mindset of Republicans so self-centered and heartless that I wonder about their very souls.
Would brag, "We're the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches."
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they'd snort
"We'll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!"
And whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
They'd hike right on past them without even talking.
When the Star-Belly children went out to play ball,
Could a Plain-Belly get in the game ...? Not at all.
You only could play if your bellies had stars
And the Plain-Belly children had none upon thars.
But these days I'm trying my best to resist those thoughts because: 1) I think they don't ultimately serve my cause (they tend to make me want to curl up into the fetal position and bemoan the very nature of humanity; maybe that's just me) and 2) I think wise old Dr. Seuss was trying his best to tell us all something very different, and I think he might be on to something. The ultimate "bad guy(s)" in the story aren't the Star-Belly Sneetches, as despicable as they may be. The ultimate "bad guy," I think, is Sylvester McMonkey McBean (a creative capitalist, bless his soul, using and manipulating the emotions of ALL of the Sneetches in order to make a buck (actually, quite a lot of bucks)). As the good doctor puts it:
Then, when every last centIn the story, it turns out that you CAN teach a Sneetch. The Sneetches forget about stars upon thars, and everyone lives happily ever after. If only the same could be said between Republicans and Democrats.
Of their money was spent,
The Fix-it-Up Chappie packed up
And he went.
And he laughted as he drove
In his car up the beach,
"They never will learn.
No. You can't teach a Sneetch!"
I know that I am mostly preaching to the choir here, but I think it behooves us to be mindful of the fact that folks like the Koch brothers are the true enemy. Our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, and friends who remind us of Star-Belly Sneetches are not blameless, of course; however, in truth they are being ruthlessly manipulated and treated like pawns by the Koch's (and other plutarchs and oligarchs who have their own truly nefarious agendas). We are all Sneetches. I think our interests would best be served by trying to triangulate with our Star-Belly brethren against our common enemy, the likes of Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
Let's not stupidly play the game that McBean wants and expects us to play.
10:46 PM PT: So I've been experiencing the warm, fuzzy glow of seeing this diary "Rescued" (thank you Rescue Rangers whoever you are!) when suddenly I noticed, what's that?, it has also been added to the Rec list? And after rubbing my eyes, it was still there? Thank you so much, this is such a huge thrill, I think this community is really quite extraordinary.
Wed May 14, 2014 at 4:05 PM PT: I happened to stumble upon something that gives a whole new meaning (to me, anyway) about the Sneetches' stars, so I wanted to share. It comes from a website for teachers called http://www.shmoop.com:
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Stars Upon TharsJewish stars. Got that? Even better, think about how at the beginning of the story having a star on your belly made you one of the "cool kids". Now think about the Black struggle to reclaim the N-word ... is it possible Dr. Seuss was slyly reclaiming a hated symbol of Jewish oppression (the star) via a soon-to-be-beloved children's story? If so, wow. Maybe I've been living under a rock, but I never made that connection before today. And it's only taken me multiple decades to figure it out.
The Sneetches' stars are a pretty in-your-face symbol. In Sneetchville, they represent difference. In Humanville, they represent discrimination.
Think back to all the times humans (and maybe Sneetches, too) have discriminated against people because of the way they look. We won't even list them because it would be too depressing—and too obvious. One example we will point to: Jewish people, who were made to wear stars (yep, stars) to distinguish themselves through various periods in history. Because "The Sneetches" was first published in 1961, during the Civil Rights Movement, we're pretty sure Seuss had all this discrimination jazz on his mind.