Like most other people my age, I grew up on Dr. Seuss books. There was nothing better than dreaming about playing with The Cat in the Hat and wishing that I had a Dynamic Industrial Renovating Tractormajigger to clean my room. I probably would have also tried Green Eggs and Ham just to stop Sam from bothering me. ‘Horton Hears a Who’ was my favorite book, but as I’ve read the Seuss books to my three children over the past several years, a new favorite has emerged – ‘The Starbelly Sneetches’.
“Sneetches” is about two types of creatures, separated by having or not having stars on their bellies. Those with stars think that they are superior and do not associate or treat nicely those without stars. Mass confusion among the Sneetches ensues when a salesman arrives with his Star-on and Star-off machines. By the end of the day, they could no longer tell the difference between those who started the day with stars and those who did not. The Sneetches ultimately realized that it really didn’t matter whether they had a star belly or not – they were all the same and they can be friends and neighbors.
The story of the Sneetches came to my mind after watching and reading about the terrorist attack in Orlando. Given the current state of affairs in our world, it may be time to give our society a refresher in the the lesson of the Sneetches. It is clear that we have lost sight of the fact that we are all the same, regardless of our race, religion, or lifestyle. It is clear that we have lost the value of coexistence, of life, and of the things that make us fundamentally the same.
Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) wrote “Sneetches” in 1953 while reflecting on the negative treatment that he and his family, German immigrants, received. Instead of lashing out with violence and bigotry, Geisel wrote books to teach children about tolerance, acceptance and the perils of hatred. When painfully reflecting on Orlando, Sandy Hook, Ft. Hood, we may blame guns, we may blame religion, and we may blame rhetoric, but we are missing the point. We are facing an issue that is much greater than G-d, or guns. The greater issue is that we living in a society that has lost the lesson that Dr. Seuss tried to deliver in 1953. It doesn’t matter how different we may look or act, we are all fundamentally the same and we all deserve respect, love, and the ability to live our lives as we chose.
I will be spending this Shabbat with my children before they head off to Camp Ramah in Canada and I am going to read the Sneetches to them one more time. We are going to talk about value of diversity. We are going to talk about how to confront injustice. And we are going to talk about the value of human life. I am going to do this because it is my responsibility as a parent to model the behavior that I want to see in my children. I humbly request that we all make an effort to do the same with our friends and loved ones. This is the my response the tragedy in Orlando.
Lastly, a very happy Father’s Day to all of my fellow Dads!