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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Ann Coulter, meet the squirrels
Jonathan Pait
November 25, 2002

In politics it is easy to categorize people into groups with defining attributes. These characteristics are typically broad generalizations. While stereotypes and generalizations often have some basis in truth, it doesn’t pay to get carried away!

Recently, two things got me to thinking about this: Ann Coulter and squirrels.

One of the books currently on my reading list is Ann Coulter’s book, Slander. If you are a conservative who wants a quick vent for your frustration over the liberal national media, this is the book for you. However, to accomplish her goal of painting them as slanderers Ann does tend to use a rather broad brush.

According to the opinionated columnist, liberals are snobs. They are snobs because they are liberal. Liberals are out for power. They know what is best for everyone and they wish to keep people dependent on them so they can maintain their power.

Enter the squirrels.

Last week, I heard someone walk into my outer office. “Is Mr. Pait in?” My secretary being the incredible one that she is replied, “Do you have an appointment?” “No, I don’t have an appointment, but I was told that he could take care of some squirrels.” Now, this got my attention, so I walked out of the office to find a young man with a pocketed sweatshirt. The pocket was bulging as he held either end. Sure, enough he had three baby squirrels in need.

Now, I have a soft spot for animals. I am not an animal rights activist by any means. I can only recall shooting one animal in my life. I didn’t even mean to do that and when I did (I was about eleven years old), I burst into tears. I have also taken in baby squirrels to nurse them through their young years. Of course, to many people squirrels are simply rodents and a nuisance. I understand, but you haven’t seen them cuddled up together in an old t-shirt on top of a warm water bottle.

This weekend I was sitting on the couch holding one of the fury creatures. He had just eaten and was curling up under my hands as I laid them on my chest. He seemed so helpless as he purred (I don’t know what else to call it, but these guys are very much like baby kittens). I looked out the window and noticed the leaves were off the trees and realized the winter would soon be here. These little fellows are going to have to go out into it.

My reaction was to want to keep the squirrels as pets. I mean, think about it, they have no mama to teach socialization skills. They have been living off of top-of-the-line formula and shelled pecans (okay, we also give them acorns and water as well – oh yeah, and Gatorade). Will they be able to make it out there in the wild? I don’t want to let them go. I can take care of them.

Now, besides the fact that in many places it is illegal to keep squirrels as pets without a permit, there are some problems with the way I was thinking. First, after about five months, a wild squirrel will begin going berserk. Squirrels don’t generally fair well in confined areas. Squirrels have been known to literally bounce off the walls when they have been confined for a time. Sure, most people think squirrels are deranged to begin with – wait until you see what happens to a captive one!

Second, I was not really thinking about the squirrel. I was thinking about me. I wanted to have a little creature to love me and depend on me. It helps my feeling of worth to know that those little guys get all excited when they see me (is it me or the eyedropper?) It is cruel to think that I will have to put them outside to eat for a time from what I place there and then to go forage on their own. It is sad to think that the little guy I held in my hands there on the couch will become just another one of the squirrels jumping from maple tree to maple tree in my back yard.

It was then that I realized that that is the other side of liberalism. Most liberals that we meet each day are not the ones described by Ann Coulter. They are like me – at least when it comes to squirrels. They see people who seem defenseless. They want to step in and help them. To the liberal, helping is to provide the needs of those without or who are oppressed. It seems heartless to them to allow anyone to fail. It is not right that anyone should not be given the same opportunities as anyone else. They also believe that it is within their power to help someone succeed. With just the right amount of support and training, anyone can reach the top.

It is not a power grab. It is a sincere desire to help.

I am a conservative. I will let the squirrels go. They must make it on their own, or they won’t make it. Sure, it would be nice for me to have some pets, but is that really best for the squirrels? Where do you think a squirrel would rather be, in a chicken wire cage in my backyard or flying 50 feet up from one tree to another? Yes, it is a risk to put them out there with the neighborhood cats and the hawk that stops by occasionally. Freedom is worth some risks – even the risk of failure.

Really, the conservative feels the same emotions as the liberal. We just act differently. We maintain that success is made greater by the possibility of failure. We understand that we cannot guarantee success or even that we will all have equal opportunities. All of us have different gifts and have been born into different situations. However, we also believe that you do not have to be bound by those limitations. You can find your place if you have the desire and your ultimate success is accentuated by the possibility you had to fail.

So, in many ways, we liberals and conservatives need each other. The liberals remind us that sometimes people need a to be held up. The conservatives remind us that ultimately we need to be willing to let go. A man is not a squirrel. While squirrels may be bred and trained to live in captivity, a man can never reach his full potential living a life of dependence.

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