"The culture war has eaten America. Everyone is to blame and everyone will suffer for it," the Weekly Standard's Jonathan Last declared this week.
The war between red and blue has indeed taken a turn for the absurd, and things are going to get worse as combatants on both sides grow more willing to dive headfirst into ludicrous shows of allegiance.
The most recent example of this sort of degrading behavior comes from Cambridge, Mass., where an elementary school librarian turned down a donation of children's books this week from first lady Melania Trump.
Cambridgeport Elementary School was one of 50 academic institutions in the nation chosen by the White House to receive donations of Dr. Seuss books, including the Cat in the Hat, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Green Eggs and Ham and Oh, the Places You'll Go!
"I wanted to send you a special gift. Dr. Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go! is a book my son and I have read over and over again, and one that we want to share with all of you," the first lady said in a note that accompanied the donation. "Please also remember that you are the future of America and that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to."
Surely, no one would think to politicize this simple gesture from the first lady, right?
Meet Cambridgeport Elementary School librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro, who protested the donation this week in an extraordinarily condescending and ungracious open letter to the first lady.
"[S]chool libraries around the country are being shuttered. Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit are suffering through expansion, privatization, and school "choice" with no interest in outcomes of children, their families, their teachers, and their schools," she wrote on the Horn Book's Family Reading blog.
Soeiro, who works as a library media specialist, added, "Why not go out of your way to gift books to underfunded and underprivileged communities that continue to be marginalized and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos? … [M]y school doesn't have a NEED for these books."
Hold onto your hats. It gets wilder from there:
And then there's the matter of the books themselves. You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliché, a tired and worn ambassador for children's literature. … Dr. Seuss's illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes. Open one of his books (If I Ran a Zoo or And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, for example), and you'll see the racist mockery in his art.
Though it's true that Seuss' anti-Japanese cartoons during World War II had all the subtlety and nuance of Mickey Rooney's performance in "Breakfast At Tiffany's," it's insane that someone would relegate the author's entire body of work to the dustbin of history for that reason alone. What a shame it would be to deprive children of the joy found in the vocabulary, rhyme and meter found in Seuss' books. What a shame it would be to deprive them of the beautiful and big-hearted lessons found in books like Horton Hears a Who, the Lorax or the Butter Battle Book.
Amazingly enough, Soeiro's letter gets worse. She concluded the already remarkably discourteous note with the equally rude recommendation that the first lady, an immigrant, familiarize herself with the experiences commonly shared by immigrants in the United States.
"I can think of no better gift for children than books; it was a wonderful gesture, if one that could have been better thought out," Soeiro wrote.
"In return, I'm attaching a list of ten books…that I hope will offer you a window into the lives of the many children affected by the policies of your husband's administration," she added. "You and your husband have a direct impact on these children's lives. Please make time to learn about and value them. I hope you share these books with your family and with kids around the country. And I encourage you to reach out to your local librarian for more recommendations."
The books she recommended, many of which focus on U.S. immigration, include Auntie Yang's Great Soybean Picnic, Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family's Fight for Desegregatio and Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation.
Just so we're absolutely clear: Soeiro provided Melania Trump, who is herself an immigrant, with a list of children's books to help the first lady better understand what it means to be an immigrant in the United States. And all of this in response to the first lady's book selection, which included titles she read to her son in her second language. I believe people attach the suffix "-splaining" to that sort of condescension.
If you think this entire story is nuts, you're not alone. School district officials have, for their part, attempted to put distance between themselves and Soeiro's letter.
"The employee was not authorized to accept or reject donated books on behalf of the school or school district," an official said in a statement. "We have counseled the employee on all relevant policies, including the policy against public resources being used for political purposes."
"While we enthusiastically support the political engagement and passion of our employees, in this instance the editorial posted online gave the impression that the statement reflected the position or actions of the Cambridge Public Schools," the statement added. "Our school district did not authorize any such statement."
Spokespersons for the school district did not respond to the Washington Examiner's questions about what ended up happening to the books. Soeiro did not respond either.
This absurd incident reminds us of the late playwright Paddy Chayefsky, whose excellent answer to Vanessa Redgrave's infamous "Zionist hoodlums" speech at the 1978 Academy Awards works well as a response to the librarian's tedious soapboxing.
Being gifted a box of Dr. Seuss books is not a pivotal moment in history, it does not require a proclamation and a simple "thank you" would've sufficed.