Is there something about New Jersey that brings out the superhero in the Garden State's politicians?
Newark Mayor Cory Booker saved a constituent from a burning building in 2012 (suffering from smoke inhalation in the process). Is it any surprise that Gov. Chris Christie saved schoolchildren from a spider?
The blunt-spoken governor (best line: "Get the hell off the beach!" – uttered when some of his boneheaded constituents decided to go out for a walk on the sand during a hurricane) squashed a spider in front of a group of kids recently. He didn't even blink, didn't talk about a "red line" being crossed or not crossed. When a spider crossed his desk while Christie was chatting with his daughter's fourth-grade class, the governor sped into action. Squish.
"Thank you, thank you very much," says Christie, whose feat was captured on video. "That's also another fun part of being governor. Any bugs that are on your desk, you're allowed to kill them and not get in trouble."
Oh, but Christie hadn't thought about the predictable blowback from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which told Talking Points Memo that "he probably did it without thinking." Added the group's president, Ingrid Newkirk:
Some people put the spider outside, but spiders are often scary to people, and that can prevent them from pondering their worth.
This is a rather odd comment, especially since we are living in a time when people think it's OK to shoot and kill an actual human being who enters a home uninvited. Still, you have to give PETA points for consistency – they care as much about an annoying bug as they do the manatees. But "worth?" Really?
Let's dispense with the idea that uninvited animal guests are automatically at a disadvantage in their battles with us. I once had a mouse, and by all logic, I was going to be the obvious victor. I was bigger. I was stronger. I had a superior intellect, access to weaponry and the phone numbers of exterminators. And yet the mouse, with the power of surprise and the ability to get in and out of small places undetected, held me as a psychological hostage for days before it was defeated. (OK, it died in a glue trap. And I do feel a little bad about it).
The mouse was nothing compared to the rat that decided to move into the home of my friend Jo-Anne years ago. A mouse has the decency to try to avoid notice, scurrying along the baseboards as though it's determined to be as unobtrusive as possible. A rat will saunter into your kitchen, open the refrigerator and make itself a sandwich, all the while daring you to try to stop it. Jo-Anne would stare at the rat, who stared back, beady-eyed, willing her to walk away first. She tried traps. She even tried putting out little saucers of bourbon. Did she think that would kill it, I once asked her? No, she said, "but I thought it might put it in a better mood." When someone advised her to grease her bedposts so the rat couldn't crawl up onto her bed, she conceded. The rat had won. She moved out.
Bugs tend to be less threatening and aggressive, but they have the power of numbers. Anyone in a city apartment who has dreaded getting a glass of water in the middle of the night, knowing that turning on the light will merely expose a sea of cockroaches racing back under the sink, can relate to this. One important truth about roaches: they live there. You just rent. They almost always win. All you can do is keep your crackers in the freezer.
So maybe Christie didn't have to end the spider's life. Perhaps he could have taught the little children a lesson of gentleness and forgiveness. Or maybe it's just a harsh, early lesson about who's really in charge. In New Jersey, it's definitely Christie.