Few ideas arouse the righteous indignation of conservatives more than the notion of "moral equivalence." In fact, three weeks ago, the National Post's Comment pages managing editor, Jonathan Kay, explicitly stated that any article that "draws a moral equivalence between terrorists and the nations that fight them," would be"rejected out of hand" by the newspaper.
So it was with some surprise that I saw this morning's Op-Ed, a rousing paean to the creative work and moral message of Dr. Seuss, composed by none other than Jonathan Kay himself.
[Dr. Seuss's] best works provide … a sense of true drama (think of Horton the Elephant's efforts to save his flea-sized colony) — and even a valuable moral. The life lessons I learned from Dr. Seuss stuck with me because they always came embedded in an unforgettable graphic panel …
Now I'm as big a fan of Dr. Seuss's work as anyone, and I largely agree with Kay's assessment. But I find it passing strange that Kay avoided addressing the philosophical heart of Seuss's works: moral equivalence. There are countless examples of this. Star-bellied Sneetches are equivalent to those who have "none upon thars." The north-going Zaks and south-going Zaks mindlessly cleave to their petty differences. And finally, in the Butter Battle Book (1984), which Seuss himself reportedly considered his finest, Yooks and Zooks end up in a pitched arms race threatening the very extinction of their species, over the most laughable difference:
"It's high time that you knew," the old Yook grandfather tells his grandson, "of the terribly horrible things that Zooks do."
"In every Zook house and in every Zook town
every Zook eats his bread
with the butter side down!
"But we Yooks, as you know,
when we breakfast or sup,
spread our bread," Grandpa said,
"with the butter side up.
That's the right, honest way!"
The parallels with the Cold War — or at least how Ted Geisel viewed the Cold War — are transparent.
One thing is certain: Dr Seuss would never have been published on the Post's opinion pages.