Saturday, May 19, 2012

Two Frogs in a Tub

I wrote this article twelve years ago. Little has changed since I wrote it. If anything, the frog in the boiler is weaker than ever. The sad thing is that he doesn’t know what is making him weak.

I once read an illustration about two frogs. One was placed in a hot tub of water and he immediately jumped out to safety. The other was placed in a cold tub of water. Then, the water was slowly heated until it became hot. By the time the second frog recognized that the water was too hot for him, it had drained him of his strength and he could not jump out of the tub. I use this illustration to show how the lines between right and wrong have been blurred in our country. In fact, they have been blurred to the point that many people can no longer tell the difference. For these folks, it is not right or wrong that matters, but it is does it feel good? Or will it benefit me? In many ways we have become like the nation Israel at the end of the Book of Judges. The last verse of the book reads: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

This change has not come over night. It has developed one step at a time. As a boy, growing up in South Carolina in the “Fifties”, I was provided with a well-defined set of parameters for behavior that was considered decent and acceptable. My parents, who were not religious zealots, did not impose these parameters upon me but they were imposed by society. This isn’t to say that everyone walked within the parameters set by society. It is to say that people were more aware when they crossed the line. They had a clear understanding of right and wrong. Obviously, this society was not perfect. It had its blind spots. It sometimes justified behavior that was unjustifiable. Prejudice is a case and point. However, overall, it did provide a clearer set of standards of right and wrong.

While people will debate whether the change has been for the better or for the worse, no one can honestly say the standards have not been changed. Nowhere is this change more evident than in the entertainment industry. We have come a long way from the shock many felt when Rhett Butler told Scarlet, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a d---!”(For those not old enough to remember, this was the closing line of “Gone with the Wind”.) We have come along way from Ozzie and Harriet sleeping in single beds. We have come a long way from Merv Griffin to Jerry Springer. Close behind the entertainment industry is the change in attitude toward our public officials. If the polls are correct fewer and fewer Americans expect their elected officials to be examples of fidelity and integrity.. These are a few examples from an endless list of things that show the bar for common decency has been changed over the years.

Some argue this a good thing. They say it has made our society less judgmental and more open and tolerant. Others are concerned that the water has gradually become so hot that there may not be enough strength left in the frog to jump out of the tub. You be the judge, because in the end, it is people like us that will determine the outcome. It is people like us that turn on the TV, buy the DVD’s, pay big bucks to go to the theater, listen to the music, and elect the public officials. In the end, it is people like us who will determine whether we will have a clear understanding of right and wrong or if we will continue on the road the early Israelites followed and everyone will do what is right in his/her own eyes.

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