Friday, March 12, 2010

Life Lessons From Children's Books

I finally watched Where the Wild Things Are last night and as I perused the trailer to decide whether or not I could trust the interpretation of the book I loved as a child, my mind took off on a wild tangent (as my mind often does) and I began thinking about how much I loved to read as a child - a love I brought with me to adulthood - and what was so special about those books.

Childrens books don't tell us that everything is wonderful.  They don't tell us that there are no winners and losers.  They don't try to scew our perspective as liberal leaders would like to do.  The great childrens books teach us about the hard and sometimes cruel realities of life in a gentle manner, and more importantly they teach us how to deal with these challenges with grace and dignity.  My tangent took me back to the Ramona Quimby novels by Beverly Cleary and all of those children on Klickitat St.  Romana's life wasn't perfect, but often stressful and difficult, which is why the books were good.  There was a lesson to be learned and Beverly Clearly was brilliant in teaching that lesson.

When I decided to go ahead and watch Where the Wild Things Are I decided to look for the lessons in that story and was shocked at what I found.  As I watched, the little boy Max reminded me more and more of Barack Obama.

Max shows up in the land of the Wild Things and at first begins destroying their village.  When confronted with it he claims to be King in order to save himself - a position he is wholely unqualified to fill.  As king he promises to make them all happy then procedes to build a Utopia.  Unfortunately he finds out that everybody has a different idea of what their Utopia is and that you can't make everybody happy.  He claims that all people will be equal but then gets questioned over why he is favoring some over others.  In order to bring the back together and heal the rift his leadership has caused, Max decides to separate them into good guys and bad guys and start slinging dirt at each other.  My favorite line was when he was deciding who was good and who was bad.  "I can't be a bad guy," he said, "I'm King.  I'm a good guy."  The dirt slinging of course does not bring them all together but drives them even further apart.

The main difference between the story and what is happening now is that little Max realized that his attempt to create a Utopia made the situation worse and not better.  He realizes that he is just a normal person and not qualified to lead and he steps down and goes home.

What I find so interesting is that Obama has failed to realize what we learned in a children's book.  You can't make everybody happy and you cannot impose your idea of happiness upon others.

Considering that the Producer of this movie was Tom Hanks, I do not believe the makers saw the same message I did.

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