One of my favorite allegories is the one about the frog in the pot of water, who got used to the slowing rising temperature of a warming pot and ended up boiled to death.
In some ways, I feel as if society has been on the menu for quite some time now. But here we are, in 2021, and life is very different from the way it was when I was born in 1961. It all happened incrementally, while very few of us noticed that the temperature was rising in the societal pot.
The most obvious example is abortion. Who would have thought 60 years ago that a pregnant woman could decide she didn’t want to have a child, and that with very few exceptions, no one could stop her from becoming un-pregnant? Back then, abortion was hidden in the shadows because we thought it was a shameful, cruel and immoral act. Now, though, it’s completely legal. Not only that, the “choice” is celebrated by the daughters of women who chose life. We even have a president who wants to codify abortion in our laws.
Of course, not all women approach it that way. For some, it is a soul-searching struggle to reconcile their desire to be child-free with the scientific certainty that they are carrying a human child. But the fact that society has reached a place where women are even given the option of destroying their offspring is a sign that our morality evaporated in the heat of that boiling water.
Then we have the idea that you can identify as something you are not. We can choose our pronouns to reflect the gender that we think we are, as opposed to the gender objectively evidenced by our biological plumbing. The “experts” have gotten around this problem by creating a pretextual distinction between “sex” and “gender,” and stared at us with straight faces as they dared us to contradict them.
And because we have been in the pot too long, we just pretend that made up pronouns like “they” and “their” for a single, confused human being is totally normal.
And then we have the politicians. Kennedy told the enslaved East Germans that he was a Berliner. Johnson signed legislation, defying his Democrat brethren, that recognized the humanity of Black Americans. Nixon opened the lines of communication with Communist China. Carter fought bravely for peace at Camp David. Reagan dared Gorbachev to tear down that cursed wall.
These are the people I remember. But slowly, and almost imperceptibly, those men were replaced with people like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who make openly bigoted and anti-Semitic comments and are allowed to continue in office. They were replaced with Maxine Waters, who urged her followers to harass their ideological opponents. They were replaced with a woman like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was a bully at the age of 46 and is still a bully at age 48.
And they were replaced with the people who voted for them, all of them, in defiance of decency.
Years ago, even in the shadow of McCarthy, I seriously doubt we would have let such low-information, morally vacant people fill our public offices. And the fact that I chose women in the litany of shame does not mean that they are the only ones at fault. It just means that as a woman, I am particularly embarrassed that members of my gender (or sex, or shared pronouns) have shown themselves to be so mediocre.
There are so many other things that prove to me just how effective incremental change can be in destroying a society. We used to say that the color of skin was less important than the content of character, and now if you don’t say the correct incantation of “Black Lives Matter” you will be ostracized.
If you do not believe that critical-race theory should be force fed to little kids in schools, making white children feel the burden of a guilt for which they were never responsible, you are a bigot.
If you voted for the wrong man, you are a domestic terrorist (or you think like one). If you actually do storm the Capitol, your friends will make excuses. And if you write or say things people don’t like, they will try to shut you up. In the old days, you just choked on your morning muffin and wrote a letter to the editor.
We got to this place because we were too lazy to check out the thermostat. Now it’s too late.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.