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The scene is an iconic image of America’s founding: On October 19, 1781, at Yorktown, Virginia, as the French fleet blockading the harbor looked on, the British army under Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis, who cravenly refused to attend, surrendered to the combined continental and French troops led by the Comte de Rochambeau with the aid of the Marquis de Lafayette, and commanded by General George Washington.
As history unfolded, the American-Franco alliance (in conjunction with their former foes, the British), proved essential to winning two world wars and preserving democracy. But a recrudescence of an ancient pestilence has again endangered the American and French peoples.
Last year, there were a rush of alarming reports regarding the estimated 3.8 million rats infesting Paris, a number greater than its human population. The threat of disease, including bubonic plague, was prevalent. It warranted the closures of gardens, parks, and other public places. Per The Local, the French government initiated a 1.7 million euro anti-rat offensive; and between January and July 2018, there were “a total of 4,950 anti-rat operations,” including “200 parks and 600 buildings treated against rats; 140 people fined for ‘compulsively feeding’ the rodents; 327 trash cans replaced by airtight containers; covers placed on manholes to try and prevent rats from accessing the streets via the sewers; and several kinds of rat poisons have been tested.”
While The Local reported Paris officials claim the rats now have been “contained,” Geoffroy Boulard, the mayor of the 17th Arrondissement, disagrees.
“The situation has got worse,” he said.
Consequently, harking back to historic triumphs over shared enemies, Boulard took a “working holiday” to New York and sought strategies and tactics for eradicating Paris’s rats. Far from being chided for seeking American allies, he was hailed by Mao Peninou, a La Republique en Marche party MP in charge of cleanliness at the Paris City Hall: “I am delighted that Geoffroy Boulard went to New York to help us fight against the rats.” The ideas and aid his American allies in New York offered the besieged Boulard included, “samples of new revolutionary American products to eradicate rats, including cubes releasing dry ice capable of asphyxiating pests in their burrows.”
Yet the enduring puissance of the American-Franco alliance is buckling as the hope and health of both Parisians and New Yorkers are now imperiled by the invading rats.
Indeed, the situation has grown so dire that over 26,000 Parisians have surrendered to the apparently omnipotent pests, signing on to “an online petition denouncing the ‘genocide of the rats’ and calling for an end to the exterminations.”
What has caused this outbreak of Parisian despairing defeatism?
Far from being curtailed, the rats have opened a new front: “‘Unearthing and unleashing hell’: Gentrification driving rat infestation in New York City,” per the Washington Examiner’s John Gage, who reports that “rat sightings reported to the city have risen from 12,617 in 2014 to 17,353 in 2018.”
In other words, it’s not working.
Instead of the mirage of rat-free streets that once spurred the Parisian Boulard to seek New York officials’ counsel, today “We’ve seen rats the size of Cleveland,” said Larry Jayson, who is the executive director of the non-profit Housing and Family Services of Greater New York. “You’re unearthing and unleashing hell on those poor people who live next door.”
This is in spite of New York’s $32 million “war on rats” that Mayor Bill de Blasio declared in 2017. Interestingly, the mayor, who currently aspires to become America’s commander-in-chief and defend our nation against all enemies foreign and domestic, is by all metrics losing his battle against the rats. Perhaps, de Blasio believes he is leading from behind and practicing strategic patience; and, once they’re appeased with a taxpayer-provided billion-dollar city program for free cheese, veterinary care, and a peaceful nuclear program, the rats’ will hole up in abandoned subway tunnels and sewers and stop harrying residents and tourists.
While de Blasio anxiously awaits the rats’ response to his overtures, the Big Apple isn’t the only municipality facing the revanchist rodent horde. Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and other U.S. municipalities are suffering similar invasions. While it is unknown if the marauding rats of these cities are “bigger than Cleveland,” they nonetheless are public health menaces.
While no Americans have yet signed on to surrender, there are indications of a weakening resolve among some public officials.
Far from calling for the rats’ unconditional surrender, Deputy Mayor of Operations Laura Anglin’s remarks echo more as further footsteps along the path to appeasement: “[T]his administration takes seriously our responsibility to control and mitigate their population . . . No New Yorker likes having rats in their community, and we are committed to continuing the work of controlling rats in all of our neighborhoods.”
No wonder some Parisians are scurrying to accommodate their new rodent masters. For while the rats may be Cornwallis, Parisian rat appeasers and de Blasio aren’t Lafayette and Washington.
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