I was a big fan of the rock group KISS back when I was in my early teens. I loved the over-the-top nature of the band. The bombastic music and visuals were perfect to attract the love and attention of teen boys.
Hey, we wanted to rock and roll all night and party every day, even though we really didn’t party that much and had a set bedtime.
I remember that during that period my uncle from Arkansas came for a visit. He was a great guy and we all loved him. But he was a very religious, conservative guy. So when he launched into an anti-KISS diatribe, I was a bit surprised. To me, they were a living carton that played loud music. To him, they were Knight’s in Satan’s Service (some people really believed that is what KISS stood for) and that they should be banned because they were trying to warp young minds.
After getting over my shock, I ultimately found it sad that my uncle could be that misinformed. I was also surprised he wanted to get the group banned.
That is what people these days are calling the “cancel culture.” Let me tell you, this is not new, and it is not something the political left or the political right own. Everyone does it and always has.
I remember campaigns to cancel TV shows that certain groups found offensive. I remember in the 1980s, a group of Congressional wives had hearings on lyrics to songs they found offensive. This led to warning stickers on albums. Many artists complained of censorship.
Remember the Dixie Chicks? They were huge until they dared put down the policies of President George W. Bush. They were banned from country radio stations and their career was severely damaged.
How about Colin Kaepernick? The former NFL quarterback decided to take a knee to protest the treatment of minorities in the country. This, in turn, had people accuse him of disrespecting veterans and the flag and it effectively ended his career.
These are all examples of this “cancel culture” we are hearing so much about right now.
And why are we hearing so much about it? Because the Dr. Seuss Enterprises has decided to stop publishing six out of the roughly 60 books Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated during his career because of racist and insensitive imagery.
To be clear, the company made the decision, and when I look at the material, I believe they are correct. But if you look at social media or certain 24-hour news channels, you would believe that people are out burning books and that we are becoming Nazi Germany. We are not. All that is happening is that outdated and offensive depictions of some Americans will not be printed and sold in the future. If you find that offensive yourself, you might be in need of a little self-reflection.
Things change, people grow and cultural items that were once fine become offensive. That is called progress, folks. That has happened forever. Look at the Hays Commission and its effect on movies. It was all about censorship.
I find sloganeering sophomoric, to be frank. “Cancel culture” really means nothing. We change and cancel and morph constantly in this country. If you don’t like it, that might mean you are out of step with the current culture, but that doesn’t mean the current culture is wrong.
Change won’t stop simply because it doesn’t fit my world view or yours.
Brad Jennings is editor of the Ogle County Life