Posts Tagged ‘squirrels’

The Rat Race

Posted in General on October 15th, 2007 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine had a gruesome attempt at being cute. The feature story “The Squirrel Wars” told of a British lord’s crusade to exterminate gray squirrels in England. The gray squirrel is an alien species, an American tourist who doesn’t know when to leave. In fact, the gray has proved quite an Anglophile (imagine Henry James cute, furry and tailed) and is crowding out the native red squirrel. To protect the native English squirrels, Lord Redesdale founded an organization called the Red Squirrel Protection Society. That protection requires the extermination of gray squirrels. Lord Redesdale is distributing traps and instructions how to smash the skulls of the trapped animals. In his efforts to protect the traditions of England–including its rodents–Lord Redesdale seems a disturbing combination of Beatrix Potter and Rambo. If you were more familiar with his Lordship, you might even be further unnerved.

In the first paragraph of the story, Lord Redesdale lets you know that his family came over to England with William the Conqueror. He ironically overlooks the fact that the Normans were an invasive species, too. Furthermore, for a man who knows his ancestry, he seems to have forgotten his last name. He tells the author, “our original name was Bertram.” However, siince the 18th century the Baron Redesdales have had an impeccably English surname: Mitford.

That was quite an oversight by both the Baron and the Times reporter. You see, the Mitfords are renowned for their crusades against “alien species”. The second Baron Redesdale, great-great-uncle of the Squirrelicide, apparently used Mein Kampf as a guide to childrearing. His daughter Unity Valkryie Mitford had a wild crush on Hitler and was disappointed that the Fuhrer did not want to marry her. (Hitler was old enough to be her father.) When her native Britain went to war against her beloved Adolf, she attempted suicide–shooting herself in the head. Surprisingly, her brain was large enough to be hit and damaged; leaving her in a vegetative but more likable state.

Unity’s sister Diana was a more practical Nazi groupie. She at least found a functioning heterosexual among the Brownshirts: the leader of the British Fascist Union Sir Oswald Mosley. And they lived happily after, if you don’t count their years of imprisonment as Nazi agents. Their brother Tom shared their political sympathies; when he was killed in the war, at least it was by the Japanese rather than his beloved Nazis.

(Three other sisters–Deborah, Pamela and Nancy–were politically neutral, and they certainly could not approve of Hitler’s bombing London. Yet another sibling, Jessica went to the other extreme: she became a Communist and even married a Jew.)

So, the alleged Mr. Bertram seems to have inherited the Mitford heritage as well as title. In espousing the racial purity of the red squirrel, however Baron Redesdale seems to show better taste in rodents.