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  • Reverend James Squire

Say It Isn’t So! Seuss and Cuomo Go Down!

Say it isn’t so. Today on Dr. Seuss’s birthday, six of his books have been discontinued by Suess Enterprises for their racial insensitivity. It has been recognized for what it is and books have been removed from publication. They consulted with educators in order to come up with this response. It was a functional approach. It didn’t strike me that they have a dog in this fight. In fact, it may make their overall sales better. NO EXCUSES.

As the fates would have it none of the six books were read to my own children so I was mystified at first when I heard the breaking news. Our staple reading list contained Green Eggs and Ham, Oh, The Places We Will Go, and The Grinch. Immediately when this news was released, Amazon noted that the six books were flying off their shelves. Some were getting quite a price for them.

When they were written in the 50(s), it was another time and another age. Not appropriate then. Not appropriate now. NO EXCUSES. Of course, Fox News is having a fit and accusing all of the people who subscribe to this view as yet another example of cancel culture.

Understanding that Dr. Suess wrote the books during another time helps us to “get it”, but we are living now in a different culture and we must make the adjustments that Suess Enterprises has made. I gather that Dr. Seuss himself made some changes to the texts during our changing culture. This was a business decision. NO EXCUSES

Today we heard that a third woman has come forward to accuse Governor Cuomo of sexual harassment. There is a difference between his response and that of the Suess Enterprises.

EXCUSES. He was misunderstood. I should make it known that I was a big fan of Andrew Cuomo. I thought that he was providing a model of leadership which was more heightened in my awareness because of the non-response of Donald Trump. I don’t think that I was alone in that feeling. I didn’t know his history of bullying tactics, but I admired his grit in handling the Covid-19 crisis. I did have some of my more conservative friends even back in the Fall question his ethics regarding his statistics on deaths in nursing homes.

As I write this post, I am not sure of the political outcome of his crisis, but I am sure of the response from his office. EXCUSES. I am also sure that there will be pundits like John Oliver who are thrilled that this has occurred. I want to focus on four things right now since these two stories were important breaking news today. These four things are EXCUSES, NO EXCUSES, FUNCTIONALISM, AND EMOTIONALISM. The Seuss Enterprises had a NO EXCUSES response because it was a business decision based in function, what they did or did not do.

We can go to the biblical story of David and Bathsheba to see how things are different for Andrew Cuomo. His decision has EXCUSES because it is based in emotion. There is an important dynamic to notice. David initially denies that he had Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, put at the front of the lines in battle to be killed to usher in the coverup of his affair with Bathsheba. But the prophet Nathan tells David a “hypothetical” story that closely resembles David’s actions and crime. He then asks David what he would do with that man who sinned. David says that “He would kill him.” Nathan, the great therapist of self-discovery, replies, “You are the man.” David admits his guilt, but it wasn’t until it became personal and not a distant act that he moves from a position of EXCUSES TO NO EXCUSES. When something becomes personal like the accusations against Cuomo, it is much harder to admit a wrong doing.

For the Suess Enterprises, it was an easier decision to admit the mistake and have NO EXCUSES because their decision was not personal. It was business!

NO EXCUSES come when you finally admit to yourself that you have done something wrong as David did. Otherwise, EXCUSES will dominate. The Suess Enterprises did the right thing. NO EXCUSES because they owned it.

In essence, if a decision involves something that was wrong with our functional self, like the 6 books needing to be taken off the shelf, it is easier to have NO EXCUSES. If a decision involves our personal, emotional self, then it is much more difficult to admit wrong doing. It is the difference between I did something wrong (function) and I am something wrong (emotion).

In family therapy we call this emotionalism vs. functionalism. For example, if you look at why marriages end in the 50(s), you would see that divorce was based in function. “He is not a good provider.” Relationships were based more in function. But from the 60(s) to today when a marriage dissolves, it is more likely to be based in emotion. “We have grown apart. I thought that he would change.” This is emotionalism.

Cuomo’s dilemma is that he is on shaky ground at both the functional level as people are questioning his handling of the Pandemic by not being forthcoming with statistics of deaths in nursing homes. That’s a business wrong doing. He is now accused of sexual harassment. That is more of a personal, emotional decision that is characteristic of emotionalism. It will be difficult for him to recover from that combination which is why he has many EXCUSES coming forward.

Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, said something about the way that she conducted her life that resulted in her becoming the founder of modern-day nursing. How did she get nurses to function at such a high level that it turned the profession into something at the very heart of health care? She was all about functionalism. It’s business! She said that she attributed her success to “I never gave or took an excuse!”

I don’t think that it is as clear cut as Nightingale’s statement. It is usually a blend of emotion/person with the functional/business. The question is which of the two is the bigger player. Paying attention to EXCUSE VS. NO EXCUSE can help you assess your response to be the most helpful, responsible, and ethical. Which is under fire? Did I do something wrong? or I am something wrong? If both questions are in play such as with Cuomo, watch out!

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