If you are my age, you know Bernhard Goetz as the “Subway Vigilante.” And that’s about the end of it. At first, he was presented as this guy who acted in self-defense against some thugs on the train. Later he seemed more like and angry guy who used the crime that is everywhere in the big city as a way to legally shoot some people. It is hard to know what to think. The incident itself is one I have actual experience with where some young man will technically be panhandling, but with a clear threat of violence if you don’t hand over some money. And most of the young men involved in the case did not go on to do themselves proud.
But to add to the complexity of the man, the Daily News reported Monday, Subway Vigilante Bernie Goetz Fighting the Possible Eviction of His Pet Squirrel. It seems that for years, Goetz has been involved in squirrel rescue in New York. According to Wikipedia, “He installs squirrel houses, feeds squirrels, and performs first aid.” And he currently has a pet squirrel in his apartment that has been the source of much controversy. It is illegal to keep a squirrel in New York. And the landlord wants it out. Fair enough, but can we at least say that the landlord is a jerk? Yes we can!
The squirrel is named Glinda’s Sister and she is a rescue. She had her back left leg surgically amputated, and her right leg is paralyzed. There was apparently an infestation of moths caused by Glinda’s Sister’s rotting food. But this has now been taken care of. The landlord claims that one of the tenants has complained about “screeching in the walls.” I don’t think this is Glinda’s Sister’s fault. It seems to me she is just going to get blamed for anything any rodent does in a three block radius. I don’t see why they can’t leave this poor squirrel alone.
Regardless, this isn’t the only oddity of our man Bernhard Goetz. He is also a vegetarian and is a big advocate for the practice — trying to get vegetarian meals offered at public schools in the New York area. He’s also a supporter of cannabis legalization and instant runoff elections. Other than his great interest in guns, and paranoia about security, he seems rather like my kind of guy. But really: no one who administers first-aid to squirrels is all bad.
I think that Bernhard Goetz is a classic American crank. And I mean that in a good way. He has those things he’s interested in — squirrels, cannabis, instant runoffs, and shooting thugs on the subway — and he is proudly committed to them. All of this makes him what is most important: interesting. He isn’t just another boring guy. You know who is just another boring guy: George Zimmerman. But then, Zimmerman is no Bernhard Goetz. But it should be clear that no one is. I hope he gets to keep his squirrel.