I first heard the parable of the frog about 20 years ago from a behavioral psychologist who was conducting a teleconference in which I was an enrollee. He told the story in response to a question I asked about how a person known to be of good character could suddenly commit a horrible act of immoral or criminal wrongdoing.
“Nobody does it suddenly,” the doctor said, “it happens gradually, like the frog who dies in hot water.” He went on to explain that if you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump right out and live. But if you put it in tepid water and gradually raise the temperature the frog will stay in and die.
I have thought about that frog story often over the past few weeks as I watch America go crazy.
Most of the people that I know who now support Donald Trump were disgusted by the immoral conduct of Bill Clinton, John Edwards, and Newt Gingrich. They were horrified when George W. Bush dropped the F-bomb several times during his presidential campaign. Many of them were big fans of John McCain as a presidential candidate, but would not vote for him because of the crude and vulgar behavior of his running mate Sarah Palin. They were outraged when Barack Obama falsely claimed, “If you like your plan you can keep it.”
Yet somehow those good people once so offended by adultery, profanity, and lies have become great fans of the adulterous, profane, lying Donald Trump, and love his adultery, profanity, and lies.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, I scoffed when Trump said he could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose any of his supporters. But over the past months I have come to realize that he actually could murder someone in cold blood and his supporters would excuse it, just as they have excused taking children away from their parents at the border and holding them in warehouses, tents, and cages. The sights and sounds of little children crying for their mothers and fathers caused many sleepless nights for me and my husband.
But not to loyal Trump supporters. They actually reveled in it, claiming Trump was “following the law of the land” and “making America Great again.” They cited the same Bible verses that have been used to justify the slaughter of native Americans, slavery in America in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Jewish Holocaust in the 20th century, and the lynchings of hundreds of African Americans by racists like the Ku Klux Klan. They praised Trump’s use of this separation policy, saying it showed he is a good negotiator and tough on our enemies.
How does tearing families apart make you great? How is putting children in cages to use like hostages as a negotiating tactic ever acceptable to any decent human? And when did people wanting to become Americans instead become our enemies?
We bleeding heart liberals really try to understand the other side’s point of view. We listen and discuss and analyze issues from every side. We sympathize and empathize and despair over every injustice. We do our best to go high even when the other side goes really, really low.
So it was no surprise when a few weeks ago syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald experienced a liberal backlash when he said that he sees “no point in trying to reason with Trump voters.”
At the time, I thought his statement was too harsh, but after listening to the comments of Trump supporters about those little children taken away from their parents (“they’re not our kids”), I now completely agree with Pitts.
Some of these people who defend Trump are neighbors, people I grew up with, were classmates with in school, or shared a pew with in church. I considered them good friends. Some others are former coworkers I respected or business owners where I shopped or hired services.
Because I am fed up with listening and trying to reason with people who defend Trump for acts like cruelty to innocent children. Especially when the only crime the parents committed is crossing an imaginary line while trying to find a better life for their children. What decent parent would not do anything to save their child?
I have had enough of people who would still support Trump if he murdered somebody in the middle of a street, and are proving they would keep supporting him even if his victim was a child.
The images of children being held in cages, crying for their parents, and being taunted by officers in American uniforms have been seen in every other country. People around the world can see what America has become and are horrified. Why can’t Trump supporters see it?
How hot does it really have to get before Trump supporters realize America is about to burn up?
Patsy Sheppard, a St. Pauls resident, is a retired educator and active locally in the Democratic Party.