I don’t claim to be an expert on Maurice Sendak, the author of ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’ I remember elementary school teachers reading his book to me as a kid, and since my mom was a second grade teacher I’d bet big money that there is a copy of it in my parent’s basement.
It would be nice if we could just sit back and think of Mr. Sendak as the guy who wrote about “Max,” the little boy who was sent to his room — the kid with a “wild” imagination that took him to strange places where he could blow off steam before returning to reality and warm bowls of soup (fixed by mom, of course).
But we can’t.
No, Mr. Sendak was a troubled man, and we need look no further than his final interview:
In one of the children’s book author’s last interviews before he died of a stroke in May, [Maurice Sendak, who wrote "Where the Wild Things Are"] said he thought about trying to assassinate former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney.
“Bush was president, I thought, ‘Be brave. Tie a bomb to your shirt. Insist on going to the White House. And I want to have a big hug with the vice president, definitely. And his wife, and the president, and his wife, and anybody else that can fit into the love hug,’” Sendak told The Comics Journal’s founder Gary Groth in an interview that will be published in the magazine’s next edition.
“And then we’ll blow ourselves up, and I’d be a hero,” Sendak continued.
How many despotic regimes do we need to watch slaughter their own people by the thousands before it’s safe to say Mr. Sendak was an idiot? How many Russian helicopter gunships need to be sent to Syria for the sole purpose of mowing down civilians before the Maurice Sendaks of the world step back and admit their foolishness? How many rockets fired into Israel by Islamic radical groups will it take for liberal Jews (like Maurice Sendak) to realize who the real bad guys are?
It must be nice being a children’s book author, able to escape into worlds where drone attacks don’t have to happen. It must be better being a liberal children’s book author, able to convince yourself that President Obama doesn’t have “Terror Tuesdays,” where he hand-picks the terrorists (and sometimes their extended families) who die.
Given that Maurice Sendak was a gay man who went to his death bed never having told his parents the truth, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that he harbored some serious resentment that grew into twisted hate. He denied reality, living a lie that seemed to also warp his political perspective.
Like the temper-tantrum throwing child in “Where the Wild Things Are,” Sendak didn’t respond well to the lone adult in the post 9/11 room, George W. Bush. In the years following September 11th, President Bush had to deal with real wild things — Islamic terrorists — and he was determined to keep ungrateful little jerks like Maurice Sendak safe, even if he had to drag them kicking and screaming into reality.
Imagine your favorite children’s author. Now imagine him saying all the things Maurice Sendak said about President Bush, but instead apply them to President Obama. What would happen to that person’s name? What kind of regard would critics hold for their work? What would be the media reaction? Take a “wild” guess, and you probably won’t be far off (if you’re being honest).
Mr. Sendak wouldn’t have been a “hero” if he killed Bush; he would have been a loser. Correction: He would have been a bigger loser.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to check up to see if the author of The Indian in the Cupboard is planning to assault Mitt Romney.