From Shaman’s Rock
By Jim Poling Sr.
I’ve never been a fan of cats. I find them self-obsessed and neurotic.
If I was a cat fan, however, I certainly would not be dressing up as one. Some people are, putting on cat masks and tails, meowing and purring and rubbing up friends while referring to themselves by the pronoun it.
It’s a fad that has been around for a while. Some people say it is harmless: if some people think they are cats, that’s their business.
Folks who do this often are referred to as furries, a subculture that dresses as cartoonish animals as a sexual fetish, or simply for fun.
Harmless enough, I guess, except it has created a blizzard of damaging flimflam designed to confuse and deceive, and it continues to grow.
Two years ago in Prince Edward Island a rumour spread that litter boxes were being placed in schools to accommodate students who identify as cats. It spread to other provinces, while appearing in school districts in several U.S. states.
Far-right politicians and media personalities promoted it as a real life issue and made it a topic in election campaigns. Last year in the U.S. at least 20 conservative political figures claimed that schools are putting litter boxes in schools for students who want to identify as cats.
Scott Jensen, a Republican who campaigned unsuccessfully to become Minnesota governor last fall, raised it in his campaign, saying:
“Why are we telling elementary kids that they get to choose their gender this week? Why do we have litter boxes in some of the school districts so kids can pee in them, because they identify as a furry? We’ve lost our minds.”
Marjorie Taylor Greene, the controversial Georgia Republican, told reporters outside a Donald Trump-campaign event that schools are putting out litter boxes for students. J.D. Vance, another Trump-backed Republican, also has said schools are doing this.
No evidence has been found anywhere that any school administration has put litter boxes in schools for students identifying as cats.
Cat litter is purchased by some schools but not for use as student toilets. Some schools use it to prevent slipping on icy walkways. Others, in the U.S., store cat litter and pails to use as toilets in the event of an active-shooter lockdown.
The flimflam hoax is believed to be backlash to gender non-conformity in schools. Some politicians and activists say protections for gay and transgender students have gone too far.
Untrue as it is, the litter box flimflam is causing considerable alarm among parents and much grief for schools administrations in Canada and the U.S.
“This claim as well as many others are simply false and are causing unnecessary stress to students and staff,” Norbert Carpenter, PEI director of schools, said in a statement denying the litter box rumours.
Last spring a Quebec school district was forced to publicly deny it has placed litter boxes on school properties and that its students are being led about on leashes. It made the statement after being flooded by questions and complaints from alarmed parents.
The statement warned that anyone spreading the rumour could be subject to legal action.
School boards in Renfrew and Durham regions also have had to issue similar public denials.
Spreading the litter box hoax is the work of unintelligent people. It is putting stress on and wasting time of teachers and school administrators who are being distracted by nonsense that is making their jobs more difficult.
It is shameful and says much about what our society has become – a society in which anyone can say anything about anyone (most often on social media) without challenge or retribution.
A lesson from the litter box scam is that we need to challenge everything that we hear these days. I’m getting to the point that if someone tells me it is raining outside, I’ll go to a window to see for myself. To be totally sure I’ll stick my arm out the window to see if it gets wet.
It’s a shame but truth and trust are giving way to tribalism. Truth today often is whatever a particular group promotes as truth as a means of reshaping the world into what they want it to be.