A British satire on the Internet introduces a pig named "Sad Ham Hoofsein' in a mock episode of Sesame Street. Sad Ham comes to a sad end, roasting on a spit. "The Count," a "real-life" Sesame Street character who shows kids how to count, becomes a weapons inspector who shouts as he searches: "One! One weapon of mass destruction! Ah ha ha ha! Two! Two weapons of mass destruction!" Big Bird represents America the Good and Oscar the Grouch plays a symbolic role as a whining Democrat.
Sad Ham, the recycled Count and the others are the brainchildren of "The Brains Trust," with a message about the war that recalls the humor (if not the tone), aimed at the home front during World War II.
"Zap the Jap." "Hit the Hun." Schoolchildren, like their parents, knew the enemy, and cartoons vented the universal anger toward Hirohito and Tojo, Hitler and the Huns. Children who grow up on fairy tales quickly learn the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. So why not draft Big Bird for what our parents and grandparents called "the duration"?
Theodor (cq) Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, author of the books in many a child's toy box, drew political cartoons during World War II. The Germans were depicted as dachshunds and the Japanese were menacing cats. He worked for PM, a left-wing daily newspaper in New York, satirizing isolationists at home as cowards afraid to fight.
Yertle the Turtle, a ferocious dictator in the children's story of that title, originally had a mustache; Dr. Seuss originally imagined him as Hitler. Racist or not, the Japanese as depicted by Dr. Seuss represented the Zeitgeist of the time: No one saw any reason to soften the image of the men who bombed Pearl Harbor and organized the Bataan Death March. That was a black-and-white war, with no shades of gray. When the war was over, Dr. Seuss converted them into the characters that delight children to this day.
Parents, teachers and psychologists hold different opinions about how to teach children about war. It's only common sense not to let young children watch the nightly news with its grim messages of death and destruction, but if they chance to see some of the news (and they will), an adult ought to be available to answer their questions. When war comes into living room, and Channel 7 mortars Channel 3 and Fox News bombs CNN, there's no way for children to escape the ugly side of war.