Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bullfrog Epilogue

Bullfrog Epilogue
Someone suggested I should have left this alone.  The first parts of the story were self evident.  Maybe so, but I feel strongly that the original FROG story had human implications.  Perhaps explaining it is “Overkill.”  So be it.  I’ll never know if you decide NOT to read the following!

About twenty five years ago, the late folk singer and humorist, Lee Hays wrote a little ditty. “The two party system gives you a choice of which machine to vote with.  Or choose which brand of razor blade you’d rather cut your throat with.”  

Don’t worry.  It’s all in your imagination.
I grew up with many ‘truths,’ which, through the years, have proven to be anything but true.  I heard the usual racial and religious stereotypes, and I learned which cigarette brand was best for my health.  Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys.  As the years went on, scientific and medical advances altered some of those so called truths.  But there was some really good stuff in that time, some which neither maturity or technology could ever change.  At least I thought so.  In my civics class I was told that my country was based upon a total separation of religion from government.  And then, somewhere during my school years, I had to relearn the pledge of allegiance….’under god.’  No big deal.  What’s the harm?  And it got a little warmer in America. 
It was, to me, pretty much obvious as to what a ‘person’ was.  But then in a college business course I found out that ‘personhood’ had been bestowed upon corporations.  No problem.  But the temperature rose a little.  A few years passed.  I had never felt it necessary to consult my dictionary for a definition of speech.  But then I was told that ‘free speech’ included the spending of money.  Just a matter of semantics.  But the thermometer took a couple of jumps, and I still didn’t notice it.

The leaders of the country came to us and said, “This is a dangerous world. There are evil doers in it who wish us ill.  We have but one goal, and that is to keep you safe.  So follow us.  We can protect you.” And the population said of course they’d like to be safe, so they decided to follow their leaders.

And the leaders said, “ It is important that we maintain good order.  And so while you will always remain free, it is necessary that your government have access and jurisdiction over some of your actions….just a few.  And if you are a law abiding citizen, you have no cause to worry.” And it was expensive, but we were willing to pay for the private companies that could access our phones and our computers… to keep us safe. 

And to further protect us, it became necessary to go outside our country to make certain that the evil doers in those other places were unable to cause us harm.  And so that was done.  And sadly, while many good and decent people in those foreign lands would perish, it was absolutely necessary. Better over there than here. Collateral damage was part of keeping us safe.   And so was foregoing certain optional niceties, like care for our sick, even for those who fought those foreign wars for us. So was the environment, food security, and education. But our overseas adventures would keep us safe.  And in the name of security at home, we were willing.  After all, wartime was no time to waste money on frivolous endeavors. So we all dug in to pay for these adventures, or worse, to bequeath the debt to future generations. 

A few dissenters spoke out, but they were too few, and their voices were drowned out in a chorus of patriotic rhetoric. The temperature was rising.  At the same time, the leaders were gradually rewriting the dictionaries, and the constitution.  And it got a little hotter. And most of us felt it was a minor inconvenience which would have little effect upon our everyday lives. It made perfect sense to some. It was only the ‘hate America’ bunch who didn’t understand that.

 But a growing minority recognized that when the countries highest court coupled the concept that money equated to  “ free speech” with the personhood of Corporations” it would likely deprive us of an equal voice in our democracy. Though the temperature shot up sharply, many just shook their heads and went about their business.  When the leaders declared the necessity of limiting some of our privacy, well, ‘what’s the problem?   If you have nothing to hide, why worry?’  And by the way, this surveillance wasn’t cheap.  So when huge portions of our tax money went to nurture this technology, well…that’s the price of ….FREEDOM??? 

It’s getting hot! And since only a few seemed to care, there were some other changes to the language I grew up with. “ Clean Air” meant allowing corporations to foul the air. “ Patriot Act” equated patriotism with surrendering one’s rights. And that act was renewed with little or no dissent by either party in congress.  Profiles in cowardice?   “ Freedom” meant obedience. “ Free Trade meant“‘ ‘let’s not pay American workers if slave labor is cheaper.” Am I the only one who does NOT GET all this?
What’s happening?
I’m wondering if we Americans aren’t being conditioned in the same way as those hapless frogs.  Things are happening around our nation, and it seems few are paying attention.
The following is from the American Heritage Dictionary: Fascism: 
“A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with a belligerent nationalism.”   Are we there yet?
Last act.  Will someone please take care of this?
By now you all know where I’m going with this. 
I’m wondering about those unknowing frogs who were boiled to death gradually.  Could we be courting a similar fate?

But just as there were dissident frog voices, there are those in our society who need to be heard.  The opportunity to support such people and organizations exists.  It is easy to simply give up….not do anything.  A few years ago, Folksinger and Activist Pete Seeger was being interviewed on public radio.  He had spent most of the interview talking about the rapidly deteriorating environment, overpopulation and greed had gone beyond the point of no return.  The interviewer said, “Pete, you’ve been decrying the state of civilization for twenty minutes, expressing a sort of hopelessness about the future….yet your music is always uplifting and hopeful.  What is the source of this seeming optimism?”  Pete paused, then, “Because MAYBE I’m wrong.”

There are among us those who refuse to be boiled to death.  Maybe as individuals we feel helpless, but I don’t believe we as citizens have the option of helplessness. It is not in American DNA to do so. We need to stand up to this corporate/ religious complex which seeks to redefine our constitution.  We finally refused to follow the laws and traditions of slavery. We ultimately repealed laws prohibiting  women’s suffrage. And in the dark days of Hitler’s Europe, even before we were in that war, there were Americans who risked their lives to give signs of hope and help to those attempting to flee Nazi oppression.  And in the 1960’s many from all over this nation joined in marches and civil rights demonstrations throughout the country. I believe that in keeping with that tradition of freedom, we have a moral responsibility to let our views be known.  And when the rights of citizens, regardless of political persuasion, race, religion or sexual orientation face discrimination, we must challenge the concept of  “granting” rights. We are BORN with rights. DEPRIVING people of their rights is unnatural. But though we have some powerful voices.  We must ally ourselves with others who believe in the causes in which we believe…even if some of them are people with whom we have little else in common. This is URGENT! Would our frog story have had a different outcome if the frogs had temporarily allied with the alligators against a common threat? Our heritage of democracy is imperiled. Find out with what and with whom you agree and ally with them.  Argue about your differences later.  We don’t have the luxury of putting differences ahead of agreement.  This is in the true tradition of our American heritage.

Perhaps those NON dissenting frogs lacked the intellect to recognize what was happening to them, but we are not frogs.  We are people who live and breathe and work and play and die.  But often we make the same mistake as did those hapless frogs…we trust untrustworthy people and institutions. We ignore obvious signs.  The frogs waited too long.  A few were boiled to death, but ultimately they ALL perished through failure to recognize what was happening to them.  Civilization as they knew it was over. Will we wait till the water boils or the swamp is poisoned?   Many of us feel hopeless…that it’s too late.  That it’s no longer our fight. And that as individuals, change will never personally effect us.  And that may be true. So why worry or care?

I offer this: How will history remember us? Who will thank us? Maybe the tadpoles will thank us.