You can't just go around clubbing rats.
The sleepy town of Hamelin has a rat problem – again. The first time, according to legend, the rats ran riot“Rats!” wrote Robert Browning in his famous poem, “They fought the dogs and killed the cats, and bit the babies in the cradles, and ate the cheeses out of the vats, and licked the soup from the cooks’ own ladles!”
That time it took a Pied Piper to lure the rats to their doom. This time, poor people would be paid a Euro per dead rat.
Picture the scene -- hundreds of poor people armed with clubs chasing rats through the streets of Berlin. There's something Dickensian about the notion, but it has been proposed by a Berlin politician who is now being criticized for suggesting that the city's poor should be enlisted to tackle the growing rat infestation in the center of the German capital.
I wasn't thinking Dickensian, I was thinking Bushesque, not W, but his mother when she suggested that the poor people trapped in the Superdome are pretty well off, since their lives kinda sucked anyway. "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this [she chuckles slightly]is working very well for them." Let them chase rats.
"Especially people who usually collect bottles could get one euro for every dead rat," Henner Schmidt, head of the business-friendly Free Democrat party...
Rats for the masses! A euro for every rat! Poor people, put your children to work - this is something you can do as a family. Instead if sitting idly and waiting for a government hand-out, go club yourself a rat - help yourself and your community. Feed your family with rats!
There would be that tipping point when some family would have to consider the size of the rat (if it's a slow day and they only catch one) vs. the amount of food one Euro can buy. A rat in every pot. Take that, rats.
The German politician who suggested this is being laughed out of town. This won't happen. We won't see images of long lines of poor people shivering in the snow, clamoring to turn in the day's rat bounty. The other conservative politicians in the area are smarter than that. But it's always worth taking a pause to recognize that people really do think this way. It's amazing.
Well, in America, we have a rat problem of our own.
Big, snarling rats.
They aren't afraid of you either. They will try to stare you down with their beady little rat eyes.
Until you turn the light on, then they scuttle away and hide.
Sniveling rats, sniff, sniff, sniffing around by instinct, scavenging. Lurking in the shadows, watching you. Scheming, and telling all the other rats how to distract you. Send the little ones to your closet (EEEEK! It was in my shoe! Eeeewww!! My foot TOUCHED it!! I felt it move!! Yuck!!!) while the big ones silently pilfer and foul all the food in the kitchen.
They took over the house for 8 years, and they have about a month left. But just because they won't be hanging around up on the countertops any more and just because they can't shit all over the dining room table anymore, it doesn't mean they will be gone. They will remain in the walls, in the crawl spaces, under you, around you, and you will still hear them rustling in the dark. We will still be infested.
So what can we do? We can't just go around clubbing them. It would be illegal, just as German animal-rights laws would prohibit Hamelin from handling their rat problem in this way. So what else is there?
What amount of Obama's political capital should go toward rodent control? It's a tough question. If you let them continue to lurk in the walls, will they thrive and multiply or will they starve? I guess it depends on how much change our new president can bring. How much of the filth can he clean up? How much light can he shine into all the dark, stinking crevices where they live and breed?
Sometimes it looks like he's a bit too willing to compromise with them. "Okay, you can foul this part of the food over here, and you can chew holes in those socks if you leave these alone." How do you negotiate with rats? Is Obama stupid? Well, no. He's kinda not. Actually he's smart - quite smart. Even smarter than me. Even smarter than some of you, and if he's got some master fake-out-the-rat plan that's over our collective head it won't be the first time. He's definitely smarter than the rats.
Oh... that's why he did that. What a brilliant way to go. Nobody saw that coming (again).
I will just wait and see. In the meantime, I'll be happy to find fewer holes chewed in my socks and fewer rat droppings in my Cheerios. I trust my new president to find a way to keep the rats under control somehow.
cross-posted at dkos.