I just finished watching Horton Hears a Who, with my kids and after reading this story many times, and seeing Horton save the Whos again and again, I think there’s a pretty good message to apply to life. It’s about living in fear and retreating into our own little subcultures where we feel safe because we make the rules and we keep out the strange and different influences. This fear is what drives the Kangaroo, Horton’s nemesis, to try and put a stop to Horton’s ridiculous story that there is a very small world on a clover.
“If you can’t see it or hear it, it doesn’t exists,” she exclaims and the more Horton insists there are Whos living on the speck of dust on the clover, the more vehemently she attacks him. Horton is disturbing her tidy little Jungle of Nool that she is the self-proclaimed ruler of. Since no one else can see or hear the Whos, they must not exists. Horton is charged with spreading lies and corrupting the youth and ordered to throw the clover away. She whips the rest of the jungle creatures, especially those Wickersham brothers, into an angry mob who imprison Horton and try to boil his clover and the Whos in a jungle stew of some sort.
So why does this matter? There are a lot of people who live in fear of what they don’t know and don’t understand. Different experiences, different people, different places, can be scary but they only stay scary if we’re unwilling to open up a bit and experience what the other has to offer. Notice how the Kangaroo in the story gets angrier and angrier at Horton the more he insists the Whos exist. At first she dismisses him as foolish and by the end she is locking him in a cage. A wise little green…uh…something-or-other, named Yoda once said that fear leads to hate and hate leads to suffering and I think Horton’s dilemma explains what the Jedi Master means. The more closed we are to what is different, to “the other,” the more likely we are to hate the other, to go along with those who mistreat the other, or worse, ignore the other (see the current situation in Pakistan and the lack of support for the people there).
Socrates was executed because he was said to be “corrupting young minds” and Horton is persecuted for the same reason (although to be fair, there is no method named after Horton or Dr. Seuss for that matter). Horton was willing to not only listen to the Whos, but to act on their behalf. It’s a scary thought to step out and act on behalf of others, but it’s necessary if we’re to live up to the noble title of human.