There is a saying that has been rattling around in my head for the past several days - ever since the terrorist attacks in Lebanon and France last week, to be honest. You can put a frog into boiling water and he will jump out. But you can put a frog into tepid water and raise the temperature slowly and it will stay in there and allow itself to be boiled to death.
I believe that this is what is happening in the world right now. The acts of terror that have been recently committed are ones that are reminiscent of a pot of boiling water, to be certain. But the rhetoric of Republicans in the House of Congress and GOP governors and GOP presidential candidates who want to deny refugees and propose tracking programs or selection based on religion are a sign that the water is being heated to boiling around us and it's time we noticed and got the hell out of this pot.
Donald Trump and Ben Carson, Jeb Bush and John Kasich (and their cohorts Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) have been saturating the news with their ever-increasing intolerance of anyone who doesn’t look like them, think like them, talk like them. But if you look back at the things these individuals have said and done in the past, there is a recognizable trajectory of hatred and isolation. The problem is that because it has been ratcheted up over time, each individual statement doesn’t seem that much worse than the one before. But we are about to boil over.
Consciously or not, it is this phenomenon that leads many sexual predators to groom their victims. Many young children become convinced over time that someone in their life is safe because they don’t act in sudden, shocking ways toward them. Small incidents might seem a little odd, but often there is no real alarming behavior to point to – it is like climbing a staircase. Suddenly you’re at the top, and the perspective from up there is very different, but if you weren’t paying attention to how you got there, it is difficult to determine where you might have interrupted your path. Victims of sexual and physical abuse are often questioned as to why they didn’t say something or fight back or simply leave, but often the progression of events was subtle and continuous and it is confusing to think about when or why you might have noticed that something was wrong.
I believe that a great many people with good intentions end up following politicians like Trump and Carson because they simply didn’t understand how hot the water was getting. It is only when you’re on the outside looking in that you can see how shocking it has become. Many of the statements that have gone months before – from Carson saying that a Muslim shouldn’t be President of the United States to Trump demonizing immigrants – led up to a climate of “otherness” and intolerance that meant that Trump could stand up in public with his hands spread wide in a gesture of “isn’t it obvious?” and say that every Muslim person allowed into this country ought to be registered and monitored closely. He seemed shocked that anyone would disagree that this “management” idea was a breakthrough. Except that it was pretty much what Hitler did to Jewish citizens just before World War II.
It’s getting hot in here, folks, and if those of us who have voices don’t raise them up to point out what is going on and work to turn down the heat, we’re all in a fine kettle. We might think of all of this as the consequence of living in a country where we have freedom of speech, but when our elected officials and presidential candidates are actively talking about how they would plan to persecute people based on their religious background, it’s time to shut this shit down.