The inflatable debatable rat … huh?
Doesn’t quite roll off your tongue as effortlessly as the incredible edible egg, does it? But I wonder if anyone has ever compared a rat to an egg.
Warning! Kids and Adults. Warning! Do not try this at home. Depending on your age, your mother or spouse may have to inflict severe bodily harm on you. Instead, use your active imagination to compare them or simply cut out a picture of a rat and an egg and place them side by side.
Unless you’re a Skinnerian behavioralist, my guess is most of you wound select the egg over the rat. What? Am I wrong?
Now I will remind you the rat is, whether we like it or not, a creature of G-d. And because it is, we begin with the given that the rat, like all of G-d’s creatures, serves a purpose and has its own rightful place within the grand scheme of things.
I just cannot fathom what it is. Help me with this, will you? Dark alleyways, garbage, filth and Bubonic Plague are some of the first associations I make when I think of rats.
How about you? Can you come up with any positive associations? I can’t. Is there anyone who, governed by no more than a modicum of normalcy, relishes the rat?
But symbolism? Tons. The rat bursts with symbolism.
The Skokie Case
In a response remembered for its stinging brevity, Mr. Patrick Henry is said to have quipped that he “smelt a rat” as reason for his absence from the 1787 Constitutional Convention.
How very appropriate. Leading us to the story of a group of orthodox Jews in Skokie, Illinois who are trying to build a synagogue/home for their covenantal family.
“The term rat has long referred to businesses that hire non-union labor. These days, it’s a broader symbol of injustice, used to target companies, industries, and governments that come up short in any number of ways, from inadequate health-care coverage to environmental violations to writer-unfriendly policies on digital rights,” explains Chuck Salter in an article The Inflatable Rat: The Striking Writers’ Lightweight Heavy he published in the NOVEMBER 7, 2007 of Fast Company.
The Rat As A Symbol of Injustice
Doesn’t that strike you as somewhat odd? You know, equating a rat with injustice. Oh, I get it. The rat is the symbolic representation of the perpetrators of injustice, of all of the meanies who, in their laudable efforts to build a House of G-d, for example, are out to get the best deal they can in the marketplace, be it on materials or labor, without sacrificing quality. Shame. Shame. Shame on them!
Okay, let’s be truthful here.Well? Wouldn’t you do the same thing? What do you think? That a synagogue falls out of the heavens’ pre-fab department, ready to open its doors free to all worshipers, no assembly required.
It costs. And it costs big. So, naturally, those paying are out to stretttttttttttttttttttttch their dollar, to get more bang for their buck, as it were.
So, if you want to work but not join a union, what do you do? Hire on and get busy. Hey, it’s nice heading home on Friday when you know you’ve accomplished something. Better than hanging out with Scabby all week trying not to feel as ridiculous as you look.
History With A Tiny Twist of Irony
In one of the lesser known ironical twists of fate, the original manufacturer of the irascible rat, which since its conception in 1991, has become the darling icon of union protestation against its non-union protagonist, is Mike O’Conner’s Big Sky Balloons & Searchlights in Plainfield, Illinois, itself a nonunion shop. Go figure. http://www.bigskyballoons.com/
“If you’re from a town with a strong union presence,” comments writer Matt Soniak, “you know that if new commercial construction happens without union labor, protests often follow. Burly guys in work boots and union shirts will take to the streets to wave signs, pass out flyers, and draw attention to whatever business has offended them. Sometimes they’ll bring Scabby the Rat.”
This is not the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire we’re talking about here. What we are talking about, however, is a bunch of grown up men who have priced themselves out of the market. Hey, if you can fetch forty-five dollars per hour as a glazier, go for it. On the other hand, twenty-two fifty isn’t chump change either.
When the forty-five dollar man reckons economic reality through Scabby Rat’s beady eyes, he sees himself as the victim of an injustice which, at precisely the same time, appears as a gusher through the eyes of the twenty-two fifty man.
What these same union champions of self-aggrandizement fail to see, no less understand, is that I can oppose the use of the inflated rat in union disputes but still appreciate the enormous contributions of folks like Samuel Gompers, Emma Goldman and A. Philip Randolph who did so much for so many.
For readers who wish to see the varying manifestations of Scabby, this photo display
http://www.businessinsider.com/inflatable-rats-unions-scabs-2011-11?op=1 is sure to satisfy the most curious of readers.