Sylvester McMonkey McBean

Who, you might ask is Sylvester McMonkey McBean? Anyone who has read Dr. Seuss stories to his or her child probably knows who he is. So why when we have two wars raging and an economy in collapse, why when I aspire to be a serious blogger would I invoke the name of a Dr. Seuss character in this post? Mr. McBean is not just any character. He is a character at the heart of our current national drama.

Sylvester McMonkey McBean

Sylvester McMonkey McBean

Tonight on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann”, the host gave one of his “special comments”.  His focus was on this new Republican trend of labeling people pro-American or anti-American, or as Sarah Palin put it, part of “the real America” vs not part of it. So where might you ask is the intersection of a Keith Olbermann special comment and a story by Dr. Seuss?

In Dr. Seuss’ “The Sneetches” we encounter a population of creatures who are more or less identical but for one thing. Some of the sneetches have stars on their bellies and some do not.  The “star-bellied sneetches” claim superiority over the bare bellied ones. This simple tale has always encapsulated for me a philosophy about the human condition. Take any set of humans, no matter how seemingly similar, and they will find a means to discriminate among each other and sow the seeds of discord. It happens between whites and blacks … it happens between dark skinned blacks and light skinned blacks, and so on. Each time you think you’ve got a group of people who are more similar than different, they discover a way to find a meaningless difference about which to segregate.

This is where our friend Mr. McBean comes in. He offers, for a fee, to provide all the bare-bellied sneetches with stars so they can no longer be discriminated against by the star-bellied ones. Once the deed is done, the “original” star-bellied sneetches, still convinced of their superiority, need a method to stand out and the clever McBean offers, for a fee, to remove their stars, declaring that stars are no longer a status symbol. This attempt to maintain the ability to discriminate goes back and forth with the only one benefitting being Mr. McBean who collects a fee for each star imprint/removal. When the sneetches have exhausted their bank accounts, McBean rides off into the sunset having profited nicely by exploiting the insecurity of the sneetch population.

Which brings us back to Keith Olbermann’s special comment. Over the past few days, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Nancy Pfotenhauer, and Rush Limbaugh have each taken turns at being Sylvester McMonkey McBean. Each of them has attempted to exploit the tensions that exist between various factions of this country to suit their own ends. If you don’t support John McCain, you’re a socialist, an anti-American, a racist (Limgaugh’s charge against Colin Powell). It’s us against them. This kind of rhetoric sows the seeds of an idealogical war, at best and a real civil war at worst. It is a dangerous road that these McBeans are leading us down.

In “The Sneetches”, the creatures learn (after losing all their money) that they are all sneetches, star-bellied or not and that what unites them is much more important than what separates them. In response to the divisive campaign tactics of the McCain team, Obama had this to say today in Tampa, Florida:

There are no real or fake parts of this country. We are not separated by the pro-America and anti-America parts of this nation – we all love this country, no matter where we live or where we come from. There are patriots who supported this war in Iraq and patriots who opposed it; patriots who believe in Democratic policies and those who believe in Republican policies. The men and women from Florida and all across America who serve on our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America – they have served the United States of America.

We have always been at our best when we’ve had leadership that called us to look past our differences and come together as one nation, as one people; leadership that rallied this entire country to a common purpose – to a higher purpose. And I am running for President of the United States of America because that is the country we need to be right now.

via Transcript of Barack Obama’s speech in Tampa – Bay News 9

Obama is no McBean. We need to reject those who would tell us that we are a nation divided. We will get the chance to do that on November 4.

(For those who have forgotten the magical story telling of Dr. Seuss, here’s a nice reminder.)

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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14 thoughts on “Sylvester McMonkey McBean

  1. This is brilliant, Rutherford!

    I love Dr. Seuss and The Sneetches is one of my favorites! I can actually see my son’s copy of it from right here. Dr. Seuss had more on his mind than writing children’s stories. Horton was another very political piece, I think. Then there’s The Lorax and Yerlte the Turtle… Great stuff with a clear message.

    But, yes, Sylvester McMonkey McBean is a perfect illustration of the McCain campaign. I wish I had thought of it myself, although you’ve done a much better job with it than I could have.

    Bravo!

  2. I don’t get it. What was holding back the sneetches without starts from having fun too? Just because the sneetches with starts wouldn’t let them come to their party doesn’t mean they couldn’t have their own…..you know like Democrats and Republicans. I think I’d rather be a sneetch without a star and have my own fun rather than conform to someone elses idea of it.

  3. LOL Mimi! That is indeed a great take on it and might have been fodder for an entirely different Dr. Seuss book about self-pride and independence!

    Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  4. I realize this article is a bit old by now, but I needed to comment. Underneath all of that creative poetry, Dr Seuss has always come across to me as someone who was anything but a-political. All of his stories appear to have some sort of social or political commentary to them. I could see that even as a kid. One that actually left a chilling affect on me when I was a kid was the story of the Great Butter Battle. Keep in mind I saw it during the Cold War between the USA and the USSR. Just thought I’d mention that one along with the others already mentioned by Lottie. Back to the topic at hand, yes people are like those Sneetches. McBeans of the world, from the fashion industry to political leaders, sense that and are always feeding off of it.

  5. Chili, thanks for visiting the blog. Yes, Dr. Seuss was often political. In fact one of my daughter’s fav’s is the Lorax which I actually read for the first time a few days ago. A story about preserving our ecosystem, aimed at kids. Absolutely brilliant.

    Thanks again for your comment.

  6. I came across this article as I was searching for Dr. Suess character costume ideas, believe it or not. I had never heard this story, so decided to read the article and watch the YouTube video. I know the article is seriously old but I feel I must comment anyway. Your apparent need to even write this article must make you a “McBean” just as much as the rest of them. It’s not like you’re being objective here, and you know it. You are just slinging mud at the republicans, and putting Obama in this wonderful, blameless, light. PLEASE. Racism is racism; discrimination is discrimination, no matter who happens to be the “star-bellies”. If we want to stop discrimination and racism in our country, why don’t we JUST STOP TALKING ABOUT IT, just like Morgan Freeman said. I don’t think, for example, there should be a black history month; for what purpose? It only causes a rift between “black skinned people” and those that are not black-skinned. (star bellies or non-star bellies). If it’s to celebrate their heritage-well, number one-why limit it to one month only? Number 2-don’t we ALL have a heritage, no matter what color our skin is? Number 3-Obama has often called it “African-American history month”. Well, what if you’re from Africa and your skin is WHITE?? What if your skin is black, but you’re from the Dominican Republic? What if your father was black, but your mother is WHITE? Man, that does throw things for a loop. Maybe someday on questionnaires and job applications, they’ll just have a shade guide you can hold your wrist up to like in drug store makeup isles. What is it going to come to? I feel discriminated against when I’m constantly asked that question on it seems like literally EVERYTHING these days. Why does it matter if we’re all just sneetches. Huh? Why? I’ll have you know, I have never owned slaves. I can trace my family history hundreds of years back. I can prove that they never owned slaves. (even if they did, what in the world do I have to do with it?). You may think or say that I just don’t know what it’s like to really be discriminated against; singled out; ridiculed. Well, that’s not so-I have been, in my very first college class years ago. I had a middle-eastern college Algebra instructor who was way out of line. I was the only female in the class, and he literally RESENTED my white female presence!! He absolutley ridiculed me; and I took it and took it bc I didn’t think the
    department head at the school would pay me
    any mind bc I was white. But it wasn’t long before several of my classmates were not only upset by it but even worried for my safety. That’s when I finally did something. Sorry for this ridiculously long comment-but I feel I’m speaking for thousands others out there who feel the same as me about this-if you think I’m wrong, please explain to me how? What part? Give me a different perspective on this if you disagree bc I want very much to be rational and reasonable on this. For me-this is how I see it, and honestly I’m fed UP!!

    classmates finally started saying something,

  7. BT, amazing what you find when you go searching for costume ideas! 🙂 Thanks for visiting the blog.

    I do think your critique is overly harsh. Of course discrimination is discrimination. My entire point is that any set of humans, no matter how similar, will find some shred of difference upon which to discriminate. And the McBean’s of this world find a way to profit from it.

    Obviously, I am a liberal. So yes, I do have a bias. When this was written there were two messages in the air. The GOP message was that some Americans were not worthy Americans …. not real Americans. The Dem message as illustrated in Obama’s Tampa speech was that we are more similar than different and we are all real Americans. I believed then and I believe today that the GOP was doing more “McBeaning” than their opponents were in 2008.

    By the way, I’ve written several articles on race, several of which reference the Morgan Freeman black history month quote. You might find this one interesting:

    https://rutherfordl.wordpress.com/2009/03/03/the-mcwhorter-conversion/

    Thanks again for visiting!

  8. Thanks for visiting Deb. I love your comment about Obama.

    It’s funny,. this post is one of my most popular ones … it seems to get hits every day. Maybe it appeals to the kid in all of us?

    Thanks again for stopping by.

  9. “Leftist milk of Maddow”

    I must admit that was good. On another note Tex I think you’re making progress that you can imagine Maddow breast feeding. 🙂

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