About those squirrels, Part 1: biological warfare.

nosquirrels

It all started for me last summer, with some VERY disturbing news coming out of California. No, not the devastating droughts and unprecedented wildfires, or the L.A.P.D. getting cartoonist Ted Rall fired from the Los Angeles Times by dropping an audio tape that of course turned out to be doctored bullshit. I refer, of course, to the squirrels.

You see, part of Yosemite National Park had been closed by health officials because, it seems, a second tourist there contracted the plague. The plague! As in, you know, the Black Death? That little pandemic that killed an estimated 30–60% of Europe’s total population in the fourteenth century? YES THAT PLAGUE.

And guess how it’s being spread. Go ahead, guess.

By fucking squirrels.

Squirrels are a fucking menace.

You might expect that since I live in downtown Manhattan, if I were to seriously hate on a fellow species–and let’s face it, all species are fellow species—it would probably be pigeons or something. Rats. Maybe cockroaches, which, as far as I’m concerned, ought to be the official symbol of New York City based on their sheer impudence and tenacity alone. Or perhaps those giant waterbugs everyone thinks New Yorkers are totally exaggerating about until they actually see one, and realize that some insects never got the memo that the Permian era ended hundreds of millions of years ago.

NOPE. I have come to loathe and detest no species on Earth so much as those members of the Order Rodentia, Suborder Sciuromorpha, Family Sciuridae. Well, besides H. sapiens, but that should go without saying. (See: virtually every post on my blog.)

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. But Iris! Squirrels are soooo cyoooot! How could you harbor such ill will towards our adorable little bushy-tailed cousins?

Okay first of all, you are woefully uninformed about the true nature and utter depravity of these beasts, an unfortunate and increasingly urgent state of affairs I intend to remedy shortly, and at length. (Wait, what?) Second, “ill will” does not even begin to cover it.

The squirrel-plague nexus.

yersinia_pestis_fluorescent

Yersinia pestis bacteria. THE FUCKING PLAGUE, people. (image: public domain)

In the wild, the plague bacteria Yersinia pestis circulates via flea bites among animal populations, particularly rodents—and squirrels are fucking rodents. Humans, such as our Yosemite tourists, become infected when bitten by a flea that has bitten a plague-ridden rodent. (Like, oh, say…a squirrel.) But that’s not the only disease vector. Once infected, humans can spread the plague among themselves by coughing or sneezing, contact (including sexual contact) with an infected person, indirect contact like touching a contaminated surface, breathing air under certain conditions where the plague bacteria can remain airborne, and the most disgusting transmission route of all, “fecal-oral,” from ingesting food or water contaminated with the diseased shit—literally, the actual shit—of the plague-infected. Think: Ebola. But with squirrels.

Take a look at how fast the plague spread in the fourteenth century—and consider that back then, exposure to infected populations would have happened much more slowly than in the age of widespread air travel and crowded trains.

blackdeathspread

Black Death strikes Europe: 1347-1353
(image: public domain)

Now it is true that these days the plague is generally treatable with antibiotics, which did not exist during the Black Death pandemic because Jeezus “forgot” to tell us about them. However, the plague can still be fatal if left untreated for whatever reason, including misdiagnosis, or lack of access to quality health care in this truly exceptional country. Just think about that the next time you have “fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes,” and your doctor tells you to just go home, get some rest and drink lots of fluids. By the way, do you think the United States has a stash of antibiotics for 323,000,000+ people? And what happens if (when?) an adaptive mutation leaves Yersinia pestis impervious to antibiotics?

Anyway. It turns out the two recent cases of squirrel-plague in Yosemite tourists are by no means isolated incidents, either. In fact:

Since 1970, 40 cases of plague have been reported in California, and nine people have died from the disease.

OMFG. I had no idea.

__________

In Part 2, we will see that squirrels have been organizing and escalating their attacks, performing wanton acts of lawless depravity, engaging in what can only be described as terrorism, and otherwise being real fucking douches.

[a version of this post first appeared at perry street palace; it has been lightly edited and updated for FtB]

Hello FtB people. FYI, I don’t like squirrels.

I’m Iris, and I really don’t like conservatives. Or squirrels.

(More on that in a minute.)

My story.

I’m one of those notorious godless, feminist leftists, living in New York City for two decades now. I was raised in and around Philadelphia by Christian conservatives, and thereby indoctrinated with the notion that Nice Girls™ never talk about sex, religion or politics. As it turns out though, those are pretty much the only subjects I have any interest in discussing (besides the fucking squirrels OBVIOUSLY).

I blog at perry street palace, and I’m not yet sure whether or to what extent I will move the Palace here. I figure I can just hang out in this space for a while and see how it goes. In the meantime I’ll probably cross-post and re-post here when it feels appropriate, so apologies in advance to my Many Tens of Loyal Readers™ if you’ve followed me here expecting a spectacular cornucopia of new material. Despite appearances, Your Humble Monarch™ is only human, people. I can only crank out so much snark (and craptastic graphics) in a day.

I also blog at Secular Woman and contribute to the HerStory project there, a collaboration with the Freedom From Religion Foundation to celebrate the work of secular women and counter their pervasive erasure from contemporary and historical narratives. I write for the The Greanville Post, and have guest posted at Pharyngula and Worldwide Hippies/Citizen Journalist Exchange and blah blah blah I don’t really like talking about myself MOVING ON.

On mocking conservatives.

I write about a lot of things, but mocking conservatives is truly my calling.

It may be worthwhile to briefly take stock of exactly what it is that US conservatives so fervently wish to conserve: an imperialist oligarchy, in a perpetual state of permanent war, governing a society that is structurally racist, sexist, violent, social Darwinist, ubercapitalist, patriarchal and viciously punitive.

So there’s that.

Because violence (except when necessary for defense) is never a good solution to any problem (except for the goddamn squirrels), this is where mockery can come in quite handy. Properly deployed, it is an extraordinarily potent weapon; that is precisely why petty tyrants, repressive regimes and right-wing asshats the world over will attempt to suppress and seek to outright ban political satire. Clearly it is worth engaging in mockery just to piss off these kinds of people alone.

More broadly though, the social spaces in which conservatives freely regurgitate their toxic views with impunity are downright ubiquitous in the US. If we want to subvert this reality—that is, make the spaces conservatives have heretofore inhabited comfortably uncomfortable for them (for a refreshing change)—then there must be a social price to pay for spewing that tripe. And as any social justice warrior worth her trolls will tell you, silence in the face of harmful speech, from rape jokes to racist slurs, is taken as agreement and solidarity by the speaker, and by others who may witness it.

In one sense, mocking conservatives is easy. Having dedicated much of my adult life to the study of conservatives in the wild (and not coincidentally, much of my childhood to surviving them), I can tell you that these people are some seriously fragile flowers. Conservatives are compulsively status- and approval-seeking creatures, and place a weirdly high value on superficial norms and social conformity. This makes them uniquely vulnerable to any suggestion that they are the outsider (and incidentally explains why they prefer to dwell in the homogeneous bubbles they erroneously construe as the One True Real America™).

I can also tell you that conservatives generally do not change their views in response to overwhelming evidence and reason; in fact, they have an unfortunate propensity to cling to their demonstrably wrong views even more tightly when confronted with rational appeals. So while it isn’t remotely realistic to envision conservatives becoming more reality-based in numbers significant enough to bring about an enlightened egalitarian society in the US, it is a legitimate (if daunting) goal to make sure it is in their own best interests to shut the fuck up. After all, their own interests are pretty much the only thing that has ever motivated them.

But if mocking conservatives is easy in theory, it is not so easy in practice. Whenever we launch rhetorical barbs at our conservative enemies, we must take great care to avoid collateral damage to innocent third parties—and particularly to third parties who are marginalized, oppressed or otherwise less privileged. We do not want to be the ones perpetuating the ugly status quo; that’s their thing. As all activists do, I sometimes fuck this up (and I welcome being called out when I do). But nevertheless it is necessary to leverage whatever privilege, power and platforms we have to punch up—never down—and to only use our mockery superpowers for good.

That said, conservatives are manifestly not marginalized, oppressed or less-privileged in any way. They control the government of the most powerful nation on Earth, have done so for decades if not centuries, and show no sign of retreat (quite the opposite). They have also taken over state and local governments across the nation and are eagerly destroying civil liberties, labor unions, the human right to bodily autonomy, the air and the water, the rule of law, living wages, public education, the woefully insufficient social safety net, crops and coastlines, the wall of separation between church and state, the wall of separation between big business and government, and the lives of countless millions of innocent people, including children, here and around the globe. (This is hardly a complete list of conservative evils.)

Therefore it is our goddamn patriotic duty to mock them, relentlessly, until they are the ones whose voices are marginalized. As opposed to, you know, everyone else. Then and only then will we quit. (Maybe.)

Thoughts on religion.

I’m against it! I’m a capital “A” Atheist and Anti-theist and not shy about it. I think faith itself—that is, belief without evidence—is a terrible pox on humanity. (And then pretending that is some kind of virtue?! PLEASE.) Faith as an epistemology fosters all kinds of tragedies, like irrationality and gullibility, wars, toxic masculinity and awful music. I abhor it, and would like it to go away forever THE END.

But the thing is, my Muslim and Christian and Jewish and Hindu and neopagan and astrologist friends and neighbors are intelligent and kind and tolerant people. Except for the supernatural bullshit, their values and priorities overlap with mine considerably. You will therefore be unsurprised to learn that they are not conservatives.

From this observation I think we can gain some important insights into some very big and complex issues we face, as a nation and as a species. For example, the problem in the Middle East isn’t Islam—it’s conservative Islam. ISIS is not made up of liberal Muslims seeking to create a pluralistic society based on democracy, equality and tolerance. Likewise, the problem in the US isn’t Christianity—it’s conservative Christianity. The problem in Myanmar is conservative Buddhists, if you can believe it.

So while I’m not about to stop skewering faith or religion generally, I naturally tend to direct my most pointed mockery at the conservatives among the faithful. THEY ARE THE FUCKING WORST.

But it isn’t because they’re religious, at least not fundamentally. It’s because they’re—say it with me now!—conservatives.

For what it’s worth (probably not much) I once took a silly political test and scored so far off the left end of the graph that I had to redesign the chart just to plot my position:

irischart

Economic score (Left/Right): -18.25 Social score (Libertarian/Authoritarian): -9.03

I call your attention to this chart incident not to flaunt my lefty bona fides or anything, but to perhaps offer some perspective on my otherwise inexplicable loathing of all things conservative, and my burning mission to mock them. Mercilessly.

Now about those squirr—

OMFG I have so, so much to tell you! But this post is waaaay too long already. (I may have forgotten to mention that I can be excruciatingly verbose? Oops.) So the fucking squirrels will have to wait.

But would be remiss if I did not leave you with this advice: Be afraid. Be very afraid.