Columns | Northwest Herald

Eye On Illinois: Words, ideas and truth matter, even when it comes to kitty litter

Does it matter that Catalina Lauf believes schools have litter boxes for students who identify as cats?

“This is not a hoax and is happening in schools in Illinois,” Lauf tweeted Monday, right under an icon noting her U.S. House candidacy in the 11th Congressional District.

Of course it’s a hoax. Obviously. We know this because we understand basic government operations: litter boxes for humans are unsanitary and would violate public health and building codes. Furthermore, do you know any high school students? The vast majority have smartphones and social media accounts. When some kid pulls a fire alarm the whole town knows within 30 minutes.

Scott T. Holland

Lauf either won’t accept reality and doesn’t grasp the amount of mockery invited by repeating such an absurdity or is willing to endure scorn because of the return on the investment of signaling to her base. She tried to pivot Monday by directing conversation toward other issues where public schools and gender identity overlap, arenas where she might have influence if elected because they involve at least kernels of truth.

But this type of language most certainly does matter. We have either someone willing to lie to get elected or someone who speaks before confirming the truth. Neither bodes well for long-term governance, but also consider the rhetorical implications. The credibility of the candidate is at stake, and by extension her supporters. When you go banging about on something so demonstrably false, why should any of your other concerns be taken seriously?

And sure, a story about litter boxes is the lowest rung of the moral panic ladder. No one will get hurt because of this because there is no place to direct any actual rage. But when Lauf looks up, she can see dozens of other politicians – many of whom actually win their elections – who are lying about (or sincerely believing) much more serious issues, up to the brink of calling for protective or retaliatory violence.

Words matter and so do ideas and truth. Last month I wrote a column about navigating the internet to find out who voted for what in Springfield. I submitted the unfortunate headline “Hunting guide to Legislature’s website regarding the SAFE-T Act.” Hunting for information is a common phrase, but knowing government figures face actual threats, I could easily have used “exploring,” “scouring” or “rummaging.” Regrettable.

To those still reading with anger I questioned Lauf or the faith that litter boxes in schools are very real and very bad, you, too, are part of the problem. Ask yourself what other motivating “facts” might also be deceptions designed to fuel your rage.

This silly issue won’t swing an election. But dying on such a minor hill is self-inflicted lunacy.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at