By Melissa Harris-Perry
Watching the current debt ceiling crisis reminds me of one of my 9-year-old daughter’s favorite books: Horton Hears a Who, by Dr. Seuss. The book tells the story of Horton the Elephant who hears a small speck of dust talking to him from the end of a flower. It turns out the speck of dust is actually a community of Whos. They have their own family, homes, communities and government.
Horton, the big elephant, cannot see the Whos but he can hear them clearly, and he vows to be their protector because “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” The other animals of the jungle ridicule and mock Horton. They even try to imprison him and torture him. Their goal is to take the little Who speck of dust and boil it in oil. Horton keeps telling the Whos that they must convince the other wild animals that they really exist. They can do this only by joining together and shouting at the top of their lungs. The Whos finally manage to get every member of their community together to make all the noise they can, but still they are not heard. Finally the last Who, a very small guy named Jo-Jo, adds his voice to the Who chorus. The Whos are heard and they are saved.
Now, I know that some anti-abortion groups have read this as a pro-life story. But I must disagree. A fetus may be a person (that is a worthy debate), but they don’t have government!
No, no, this is a story about being the little, invisible people who have a whole community and even forms of self-government. These little people want to be autonomous but they are subjected to neglect, abuse, and even delighted torture by those who are more powerful.
Who will be the Horton for us? Is there anyone who will hear the little person and work hard to carry us to safety, or will combined forces of the political jungle keep threatening to destroy us?
But here is the triumphant element of this story. Horton cannot save the Whos just by his benevolent action and intention. They have to save themselves. Each and every Who from the mayor to the littlest kid had to speak up for themselves. The voice and power resides in the people. What can we do to make them HEAR us?
After the jump, Yopp!
From Horton Hears a Who
“And, just as he felt he was getting nowhere,
And almost about to give up in despair,
He suddenly burst through a door and that Mayor
Discovered one shirker! Quite hidden away
In the Fairfax Apartments (Apartment 12-J)
A very small, very small shirker named Jo-Jo
was standing, just standing, and bouncing a Yo-Yo!
Not making a sound! Not a yipp! Not a chirp!
And the Mayor rushed inside and he grabbed the young twerp!
“And he climbed with the lad up the Eiffelberg Tower.
‘This,’ cried the Mayor, ‘is your town’s darkest hour!
The time for all Whos who have blood that is red
To come to the aid of their country!’ he said.
‘We’ve GOT to make noises in greater amounts!
So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!’
“Thus he spoke as he climbed. When they got to the top,
The lad cleared his throat and he shouted out, ‘YOPP!’
“And that Yopp…
That one small, extra Yopp put it over!
Finally, at last! From that speck on that clover
Their voices were heard! They rang out clear and clean.
And the elephant smiled. ‘Do you see what I mean?…
They’ve proved they ARE persons, no matter how small.
And their whole world was saved by the smallest of All!’ “