The Rage Against Groundhogs

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Groundhog Day used to be just some innocent fun--an excuse for first grade art projects, putting a roly-poly rodent on TV, and making cult metaphysical comedies with Andie MacDowell. No longer. In an increasingly polarized America, no figure is safe from scapegoating. Now, like Jewish bankers, Scott Brown, and Samuel Alito, groundhogs are finding themselves on the defensive. The furry creatures are generating a surprising amount of hostility.

  • Being Replaced by Robots  The futuristic nightmare has come true. PETA wants the iconic Punxsutawney Phil to be replaced by a mechanical lookalike, in order to save Phil from stress. Readers of the New York Daily News echo the call. "I'm with PETA," declares Kevin Brown in a letter to the editor. With a robot taking over, "they could send Punxsutawney Phil to Haiti, where he would be a good meal for a family of six."
  • A Veritable Groundhog-cession  In fact, human men have nothing on groundhogs when it comes to unemployment. In Alaska, the poor creatures are losing market share to marmots. Marmot Day, also on February 2, was apparently passed in the Alaska legislature and signed by then-governor Sarah Palin. Explains Kim Andree for the Juneau Empire, "Because there are no groundhogs in Alaska--yet three other species of marmots call the state home--it makes sense the ground squirrel become Alaska's version of Punxsutawney Phil." The news is grim: "though the bill doesn't give marmots any weather forecasting duties, [Alaska Sen. Linda] Menard hopes the state will create educational activities around the animal."
  • Groundhog Day Ritual Makes No Sense  Donna Henes, Huffington Post resident "urban shaman, eco-ceremonialist and ritual expert" takes umbrage with Groundhog Day on different grounds--namely, the calendar: "Huh? There are always six more weeks of winter. Spring is always six weeks away. That is why we mark the day in the first place," she writes. February 2 is "the exact halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox," a time for farmers to check their stores of food and fuel. City-dwellers should instead ask themselves this: "Do we have adequate stores of body, mind, heart and spirit to weather the rest of the winter?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.