Friday, March 2, 2012

Santorum and Seuss

I'm glad to hear GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum has retracted his comment about his unsavory biological reaction to John F. Kennedy's famous 1960 speech to a gathering of Protestant ministers... it's the height of ahistorical lunacy for a Catholic presidential candidate to decry the efforts of another Catholic candidate to dispel concerns about loyalties in an era when anti-Catholic sentiment remained rife. Indeed, a significant chunk of the core of Santorum's support today would have ignored him entirely in 1960 precisely because of his religious faith. Ridiculous, yes. But historical fact? Absolutely.

It was only over the course of the tumultuous 1960s that conservative evangelical Protestants and Catholics began to contemplate an alignment in defense of mutual interests. Even into the 1970s, conservative sociopolitical causes such as the early pro-life movement remained tenuous and split because some Protestants were leery of joining forces with Catholics. This notion of a unified Catholic-evangelical Protestant voting bloc is a very recent phenomenon. We can continue to debate important questions of church and state, but without an informed foundation these discussions will never progress beyond hollow shouting matches.


On a lighter note, happy birthday, Dr. Seuss! I sent the kid off this morning in her pajamas, books and panda bear in tow, for her elementary school "read-in." Theodore Geisel's contributions to the world of reading are many and various, but somewhat less known is the role he played as a political cartoonist motivating support for World War II. Many of his cartoons lampooned isolationist sentiment and emphasized the dangers of Naziism, but he also prodded Americans to examine their own prejudices and motivations:

June 11, 1942

Unfortunately, despite warnings such as the above he did result to racialized caricature himself, especially as concerned the Japanese. Nonetheless, his cartoons tell an important story of the complicated road to American engagement in the Second World War. For more, see the PBS Independent Lens Web site here.