(Democracy Hits An Iceberg)
Have you heard this thing about frogs?! The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to, or be aware of, sinister threats that arise gradually rather than suddenly.
However, it’s not true, because frogs are ‘thermoregulators’; changing environment is a fundamentally necessary survival strategy for frogs and other ectotherms. Thermoregulation is the ability of an organism to keep its body temperature within certain boundaries, even when the surrounding temperature is very different. (A thermoconforming organism, by contrast, simply adopts the surrounding temperature as its own body temperature, thus avoiding the need for internal thermoregulation.)
The biology lesson is over, but, let’s not let science be an inconvenient truth. Let’s suppose the fable were true, and ponder two key questions: Would the frog even get in the water if it knew that the water would soon come to a boil? And would the frog stay in the water if it learned as it was sitting in the beaker of water that the water was going to come to a boil?
In another context, would someone board the Titanic knowing well beforehand that it was scheduled to meet an iceberg? And, having hit the iceberg, would someone stay onboard as the ship took on water, tilted, and the lights winked out one by one?
I used to think I knew the answers to these questions.
In a more contemporary context, would the average person on the street 5 years ago have said that they would like to someday have as President of the United States a person vulgar in both word and deed? And, having elected such person, and squatting bug-eyed in that ignominious beaker of warming water, would they maintain support for their decision as the water ridiculed and ignored advice from its own senior leaders, embraced our real and potential enemies, criticized and subverted our longtime allies and alliances, all the while standing on 5th Avenue impulsively tweeting ignorance and disregard of science, history, and democracy?
Democracy has boundaries and needs to be regulated to survive. And here’s my message to a warm frog: If you voted for him—jump. And if you still support him—boil.
Definition of Vulgar: 1a : lacking in cultivation, perception, or taste : coarse b : morally crude, undeveloped, or unregenerate : gross c : ostentatious or excessive in expenditure or display : pretentious 2a : offensive in language : earthy b : lewdly or profanely indecent
Definition of Thermoconforming: 1a : Republican