The thing about Poison Ivy is that every part of it is toxic, all the time. The leaves, the roots, the stem, the berries– all toxic. The toxin is Urushiol and it’s amazingly stable. One spring several years ago I got PI from gloves I’d worn the previous summer. I’ve gotten PI from my cat’s fur when she snuggled against my bare skin. Take a saw to the stems when the leaves are off and it’s in the saw dust. Pull down the vines and burn them in winter and it’s in the smoke.
That nasty vine is hearty, too, and doesn’t care if it grows in the sun or shade. It grows around English Ivy or Wild Grape. It loves to grow around berry vines as anyone who has ever picked wild raspberries knows. Descriptions don’t always help, lots of aerial roots and it’s probably PI but when it gets bigger, stronger, they might not be there. The leaves as usually jagged but I’ve seen very mature plants with leaves 5 inches across and not a jag in sight. The clusters of white berries is a pretty good indication but only if they’re there. The leaves turn red when the season turns but what if it’s not fall?
And it gets worse. When they first start out they look just like Virginia Creeper. It isn’t until Virginia Creeper grows the extra leaves that the difference is obvious.
The only way to get rid of Poison Ivy is to kill it from within, and you need the right kind of weed killer because there’s a waxy gloss on the leaves–you need to break through that barrier to get the poison into the plant. When you do it withers and dies and, sadly often poisons the ground around it.
I know about PI. The last 9 years I’ve taken it on myself to clear the walking paths through the woods. My goal is to keep the area clear two feet on either side of the path so parents with a child in tow don’t accidentally expose their kids.
When I started it would take 12-15 gallons every bout of controlling sprays several times over the summer. Now it’s just maintenance–once at the start of the spring, once around July4th and maybe if there’s been lots of rain again in the fall. About a gallon and the job is done.
Point is, Poison Ivy is persistent and so completely toxic that you can’t just take on the parts you see and if you try to pull it or cut it out all you’ll do is spread the poison. You have to know its weakness and you have to be patient, consistent and vigilant.
Prejudice is a lot like Poison Ivy. It can start out small, it can look like something else, it can hide in plain sight. It poisons everything it touches. And you can’t just lop off the parts you see, you have to get to the root and let it die from within, and it may take some time.
It’s why there are words you just can’t use anymore. A Brazil Nut is not that other word. A transgendered person is not the T word. And no, you don’t get to call homosexuals the F word. You don’t make fun of disabled people and you don’t call people liars when they tell you their experience with law enforcement is different than yours.
Do I think that the Harvard brouhaha over the professor’s letter suggesting that it isn’t the role of the university to tell people what they can or can’t wear for Halloween was over blown? Yes. Do I think that U of Wisconsin was right to protest against Milos Yiannopoulos? In retrospect yes, the man doxed a student while he was there. No, Milos, it’s not your place to out someone. Do I think that Notre Dame was right to invite Pence to speak at commencement? Yes. Do I support the students who walked out on him? Yes, symbolic speech is still speech and all they did was walk out–they didn’t disrupt his speech nor did they prevent anyone else from listening.
That’s not being politically correct, it’s being vigilant about not letting the poison grow and spread.