We all know the story of how to boil a frog to death (Frog lovers: I’m not suggesting you do so, I’m just trying to make a point here.) The premise is that if you suddenly plopped a frog into boiling water, it would jump out. But if the frog is put in lukewarm water which is then very slowly brought to a boil, it won’t recognize the danger. And before the frog knows what is happening, it will be cooked to death.
I thought of that well-known fable as I read something recently that scares me worse than being a frog whose goose is cooked.
A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that most Democrats (55%) and Republicans (53%) now believe it is “likely” that America will “cease to be a democracy in the future.” For Americans who claim to be independents, their numbers are close to half — (49%). Only 25% of those polled consider the end of democracy in the United States unlikely and another quarter (25%) say they’re unsure. Not exactly overwhelming optimism.
Like the poor frog being slowly boiled to death, we seem to be slowly eroding as a nation. And unlike the amphibian that had no idea what was happening, we are fracturing on purpose. We seem to be more interested in focusing on what divides us rather than in what unites us as Americans.
Speaking of division, you will never see the word American hyphenated in this space. You either are or you are not an American. No hyphenations. Period. Besides, I have a friend from South Africa who is a naturalized citizen of the U.S. She is white but is she also African-American? I must remember to ask the politically-correct police at the Associated Press who dictate that Black be capitalized, but not white.
We are reminded of our past mistakes by tearing down statues, changing names and defiling historical figures who deserve better from those who don’t know any better. To my knowledge, the Brits have not torn down the Tower of London in spite of the atrocities that occurred there. Nor have the French razed Versailles, where the royals once lived opulently while its citizens starved.
While many obsess on racial injustices committed in the past that were indeed unjustifiable, they forget that this country elected and then reelected a Black president. (Hint: He had to get a lot of white folks to vote for him. Blacks make up only 14% of the nation’s population.) But nobody seems to want to focus on our progress as a nation and the tremendous opportunities that await those willing to seek them out. Our past is our prologue.
Civil discourse is no longer a means by which to discuss our differences. We now threaten and bully via social media (anonymously, of course) those with whom we disagree and are not helped by a tiresome ex-president continually hurling invectives and insults like a petulant child. We seem to have lost our sense of humor. Nothing is funny anymore. Where is Bob Hope and Red Skelton when we need them?
Our national media have deepened the divide among us, slanting their reporting to appeal to those who agree with them and disparaging those that don’t. They – Fox News, One America, CNN, MSNBC – are neither fair nor balanced nor objective. They are Trump apologists or Trump detractors. No more, no less. Where are Chet Huntley and David Brinkley when we need them?
The blame for all of this falls on all of us. We are guardians of a special gift, this democracy of ours. Some 400,000 members of the Greatest Generation gave their lives in World War II to ensure that we would be free people. And now more than half of us opine that our democracy may eventually go away. Not because some country conquered us but because we rotted away from the inside out through indifference and apathy.
In the narrative that accompanied the poll, the question was posed: Have Americans simply given up on democracy? The answer was not at the present but it may be that Americans may have largely given up on each other. We may no longer be United States. I hope that is not the case but until we can find someone to bring us together as a people and help us find our better selves, we are in danger of becoming like that clueless frog. We won’t realize what has happened to us until it is too late.
•Dick Yarbrough is a four-time winner of the Best Humor Column by the Georgia Press Association. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb