“Your Majesty please…I don’t like to complain,/ But down here below, we are feeling great pain./ I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,/ But down at the bottom we, too, should have rights.”
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
That quote is lines 65-68 from “Yertl the Turtel”, one of three stories from Yertl the Turtle and Other Stories by the rabble-rousing labor activist and raving anarchist, Theodor Suess Geisel, better known to you, me, and millions of other children as Dr. Seuss. The famous children’s book was published by Random House Books on April 12, 1958, and Dr. Seuss’s demonic, socialistic thoughts, have been polluting minds – young and old – ever since.
But, like all instigators of class warfare, the good Dr. got called to account for his dangerous words a little over a year ago by Dave Stignant, acting director of the Prince Rupert School District in the sleepy little hamlet of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada.
But, let’s start this from the beginning. The photo of the turtle that heads this bit of pinko thinking was taken by my wife. The turtle is at home in a pool outside of Auto-Mercado, an American-style supermarket between Tamarindo and Villareal in Costa Rica.
I commented at what a limited world-view this poor creature must have had, and a friend of mine replied that it probably wasn’t all that bad, since the turtle was king of all he surveyed. I immediately thought of one of the first books I owned as a child, Yerlt the Turtle and Other Stories.
It’s a short piece -probably one of Dr. Seuss’s most famous – from this stanza:
Then again, from below, in the great heavy stack,
Came a groan from that plain little turtle named Mack.
“Your Majesty, please… I don’t like to complain,
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
We turtles can’t stand it. Our shells will all crack!
Besides, we need food. We are starving!” groaned Mack.
Similar turtles were used in an editorial cartoon published in PM on March 20, 1942. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The gist of this story is that Yertl the Turtle is the King of the Pond on a “faraway island of Sala-ma-Sond, and wanting to be more powerful, he had ordered his turtle subjects to pile up so he could survey more to be King of. Mack, a most common and plain little turtle, was on the bottom. All was fine until the moon came up, and Yertl called for more turtles since there should be no higher than the highest authority…himself.
How this all became an issue in the Prince Rupert School system was that a elementary school teacher had introduced this book into her class plan. She also seems to have had a t-shirt with “But down at the bottom, we too should have rights” on the chest. She was a union member, and there was a bit of re-working to be done as far as contracts and pay-scales were concerned. The indignant Stignant banned her from using the book in her classroom, wearing the t-shirt, and from even having any items concerning Yertl the Turtle on school grounds, or in open view inside her car.
“It’s a good use of my time if it serves the purpose of shielding the children from political messaging,” the indignant Stignant said. “I don’t consider it’s taking a stand on the dispute. It’s a matter of legality and living up to our obligations to children and their families.”
I was digging farther into this, the results of the Yertl the Turtle controversy and book ban, and especially the fortunes, or misfortunes of the indignant Stignant…but the internet connection went south, I lost my original post, art, and settings, so I’m getting this off as fast as I can before it happens again.
Save it for another day.
I do know that the end of the tale has plain little turtle Mack burp (which was quite a rude thing to say in 1958) and the turtle tower collapsed, leaving King Yertl face in the mud of the pond. Maybe the final stanza gives some indication of how the whole union brouhaha, as well as the indignant Stignant’s, fortunes fared:
And tosay the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course… all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.