Your Opinion

Beware of the boiling frog

December 18, 2013 

Dear editor,

Oh it is again our magical season of myths and metaphors to repeat the red-nosed reindeer legend. Let’s keep believing in good old Santa, but maybe we should stress a bit over the boiling frog story.

Santa delivers good gifts when he sees us do the right thing all year. Like Santa, our federal government gives wonderful gifts as it watches over us. We can never be totally sure we did the right thing, but we can still smugly blaze down a gift Interstate (perhaps $425 billion cost for U.S.A. “freeways”) like we earned it.

Now about that boiling frog – it lives in a metaphor that tells us a frog will instantly leap from a pot of boiling water, because it’s hot. However, put that same frog in a pot of room-temperature water, then ever so slowly add heat, and the frog stays to die. The intended message is a frog comfortably accepts gradual changes that become fatal, but a frog instantly knows radical hot. Of course our lesson is to be aware of the boiling frog syndrome.

Boiling-frog-story debunkers make it as suspect as the red-nosed reindeer myth. But we can accept the premise that frog intellect instantly knows water that’s too hot. Experiments actually showed real frogs failed to act after gentle temperature increases over 2.5 hours.

The goodness of a Santa-like government raised my concerns, and maybe I am now a heated frog. For example, does that handy gift Interstate also tempt us to drive too much? We so easily expect those other warmhearted subsidies, like Parts A, B, C, and D, affectionately called Medicare. National defense is a solid gift – rooted in a protective motive and a resolve – like a warm and fuzzy security blanket. Our good old U.S.A. Santa gradually bestowed warming gifts until our thermometer now reads $17.2 trillion of unpaid energy bills.

But think for a spell if we were tossed into a pay-instantly debt pool. Could anyone suppress a jump reflex when expected to pay $219,000, which is a family-of-four’s allocated national debt? The boiling frog lesson suggests we ponder a mythical community of snugly frogs that likely exchanged cheerful chirps, swelled with hope, and dozed so effortlessly. But when Santa for frogs dialed in a few more gift BTUs, every frog croaked before it could jump. Do we know about hot better than frogs?

Dale Basham,

Lee’s Summit

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