Friday, March 11, 2016

"Single Issue Advocacy"

“… And now, without further fanfare or ado, let me introduce our guest speaker for the evening, Mr. Ned Frischman.”

“Thank you.  My name is Ned Frischman, president of the “Society for the Promotion of Rights for Rats and Rodents in America”, popularly known at the ‘S-P-Triple-R-A’, although not as popularly as I would like.  Our current membership is seriously depleted.  Not to be alarmist, but this is hardly the moment to drop our guard. 

Rehabilitating the negative image of rats and rodents in this country is a serious issue, to which I have dedicated the majority of my adult life.  The sacrifices I have made – I have willingly made – career, financial, in my personal life – I have made happily and without regret.  The danger to our earthly co-habitants continues. And I will not rest until rats and rodents can scurry around openly, free from constant pursuit and imminent annihilation.

I want you to think about this.  What other species on this planet engenders an industry dedicated specifically to wiping them entirely out of existence?  They are called “exterminators”, doing their dirty work not secretly, but advertising on billboards, the Internet and right there in the Yellow Pages.  

Think about that.  Millions of species in this glorious ecosystem.  And we unilaterally target our rats and our rodents.

I know.  The “Bubonic Plague.”  But that was five hundred years ago.  Isn’t it time to let bygones be bygones?  Some people believe that was contaminated water and we had nothing to do with it.  Still, to this day, they continue to blame the rats, and the rodents suffering “guilt by association” because they remind people of rats.

This centuries-old vendetta is discriminatory, unjust and egregiously unfair.

Pigeons carry disease too – look at ‘Avian Flu’.  Mosquitoes transmit Zika, Ebola and malaria.  But do they hire professional companies to obliterate them?  Okay, the Panama Canal, but when else?

Tell me.  When was the last time you saw a pigeon get their neck snapped entering a trap to procure an irresistible dollop of peanut butter?  Ever see a mosquito struggling desperately to escape from a glue pad?

What’s going on here?  Why single out the rats?

‘Not discrimination’, you say?  Consider these phrases and imagery readily accepted in our culture, children repeating them without punishment or rebuke, all of them dead giveaways to a prejudice so ingrained in our culture, we do not even realize it’s there.


‘Rat fink.’


The rats threatening the baby in Lady and the Tramp.

‘He ratted them out.’  As if rats were notoriously cowardly and disloyal.  Rats are demonstrably courageous.  Imagine you weighed four pounds or less and you were doggedly pursued and threatened with extinction.  You probably wouldn’t even leave the house!

Sometimes the landscape seems to have calmed, signs of discrimination appearing to have gone for good.  Do not be fooled by such appearances.  We thought we’d heard the last of the odious ‘Rat Pack’ after ‘Old Blue Eyes’ Sinatra departed the scene.  Then it comes back with a vengeance via that posse of actors from the John Hughes movies. 

It’s a neverending struggle.  You fight tooth and nail to eradicate a slur.  You relax your vigilance, and back it comes.  Trust me, my friends.  We have not at all seen the last of ‘Rat Pack.’

Thank God an organization exists to battle injustice and holler “Unfair!”   

The ‘Society’s’ near-term objective is to replace the old derogatory stereotypes with an enlightened, “rodent-friendly” perspective, encouraging phrases like ‘Clever as a rat.’  ‘Nimble as a rat.’  ‘Resourceful as a rat.’  Positive descriptives, with the added characteristic of being accurate and correct. 

Your typical rat exhibits all of these virtues.  And more.  Rats are as friendly as a puppy dog… if you give them the chance.  Sure they race away when you come up to them, but under the circumstances, wouldn’t you?

Ladies and gentlemen, we need your help.  We ask you to generously support the ‘S-P-Triple-R-A’ by buying our promotional “Pat a Rat” bumper stickers, t-shirts and insignia.  The proceeds go directly to the cause.  Very little goes to administration because… well, frankly, we don’t have any.  They thought the war was over, and they flew the coop.  Which reminds me.  Chickens carry sicknesses as well.

My friends, I have dedicated my life to this glorious crusade.  From the moment I wake up till I close my eyes at night, the rights of rats and rodents are all that I think about.  I even dream about them in my sleep.  Some say, “It’s too much.”  I say, “If I don’t think about the rodents, who will?” 

Some have called this lifelong commitment a self-indulgent ‘ego trip’, exploiting the ‘Cause’ for public attention and personal acclaim.  Let me tell you something.  Nothing would make me happier than to proclaim that the battle is over, and to quietly retire. 

I pray fervently for the day when this organization is no longer necessary.  That day may indeed be closer.  But it has, realistically, not yet arrived.

I thank you all for your attention.  And I will see you next year.”

“We’d like to thank our guest speaker for his stirring presentation.  We now invite you to our nearby banquet facility for a casual get-together offering wine and cheese.”

“Oh, sure.  Cheese!

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