When I was tutoring inner-city kids in our nation's capital, I decided that the recreational reading my young charge would choose, if pressed to read something, was not developing his mind. It either involved cartoon characters beating each other up, or playing tricks on one another.

So, I reasoned he’d be better off with a series I enjoyed when I was his age: Tintin the boy detective who, with his dog Snowy, traveled the world in search of wrongs to right. Surely, I figured, this would be more grounding stuff.

The boy didn’t take to Tintin at first, but that didn’t stop me. I bought the whole series — minus "Tintin in Congo," which hasn’t been sold in the U.S. for years — and gifted it to the after school program’s library. At one point, when he was reading Red Sea Sharks under duress, he stopped to ask why the cargo hold of a ship was filled with people whose skin was dark like his.

The Arabs traded slaves even before us whites did, I tried to explain, but this didn’t provide much comfort to an 11-year-old, whose ancestors may have come to this country in the hull of a ship. Logically, the brain, before it becomes contorted by resentment and rage, cares less who is to blame than what is to be done.

After I left, I wonder if the program held onto the Tintin series or tossed it. It doesn’t matter, I suppose. I learned a lesson anyway: my good intentions may well have been misguided.

Fast-forward to the raging debate of the moment: Dr. Seuss versus Cardi B.

Unlike the somewhat obscure Belgian boy detective Tintin, America grew up on Dr. Seuss. Back in my old neighborhood in D.C., a homeless man who hawked a newspaper written by, for and about the homeless, dressed as the Cat in the Hat.

Sure, there were some subversive political messages. In the Bread and Butter Wars, for instance, Dr. Seuss slipped in his own personal view that arms races are inane and better avoided. I can understand why our country’s military-industrial complex would have every reason to be offended….

Unlike Dr. Seuss, Cardi B is just a striver. She’ll never be Nikki Minaj, who does she think she’s kidding? Even if my friends at NPR consider her single "WAP" (Google the acronym yourself, this is a family publication) to be the song of the year, I maintain Cardi is no Nikki so, given the choice, I’d go with Dr. Seuss.

But it’s sort of a false choice. NPR doesn’t choose what our children read in school, even if they do report on it. The culprit in the case of “de-listing” Dr. Seuss titles is everyone’s overlord: Amazon. This past week they also “de-listed” a documentary on the life of conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. This is worrying, but the remedy is not more regulation.

Big Tech, including major online retailing platforms, has leapfrogged government when it comes to dictating the standards of the marketplace. That’s because we opened the door and let them in, whether by voluntarily giving them our data or relying on them to sustain our daily existence.

It is the market, not the marketer, who should choose what we read, watch, buy or gift. When we cede absolute power to the marketer, we also give up our choice. In the sort of country I’ve always considered America to be, free competition is the guarantor that we will have some choice. That said, there is a consensus view that "Tintin in the Congo" should not be sold in the U.S., and for good reason.

There are bigger issues out there than what children’s books are allowed in schools, but cancel culture is not a figment of the right’s imagination. It is real. If unchecked, it will lead to more disenfranchisement and division and, ultimately, to bigger trouble for the country as a whole. We should be careful which parts of our culture we toss because they don't conform with the moment.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.