The Frog in the Pot


Hindsight is a hell of a thing.

Do you know the parable about the frog in the pot? It’s a parable that goes basically like this. Throw a frog in a pot of boiling water and he will sense the danger and jump right out. But put him in cold water and slowly turn it up, and he will boil to death.

Being cold blooded, who knows, maybe he will. But the point of the metaphor is about how things can creep up on us – a situation or status has been slowly building and we fail to see the danger, and really just become accustomed to the heat.

The landscape moved under us, and we failed to notice shift.

Such was February 26, 1993.

It’s been 26 years, and most people I would bet have forgotten that day. Yet in our history, it was a red flag on a storm drenched beach. It was a warning, a jihad butterfly flapping its wings.

And we have not been the same since.

If you don’t remember, here is the wiki. Simply, Middle Eastern men, terrorists, led by a criminal named Ramzi Yousef, drove a Ryder truck with a 1,300 pound bomb in the back to the underground parking garage below 1 World Trade Center, the north building that would also be the first hit in 2001.

The bomb blew the holy hell out of the garage, killing six, and an unborn child. But it did not topple the building. Nearly all of the conspirators were captured and tried. But the 1990s bombings continued.

1995 Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  A “domestic” bombing.
1996 Khobar Towers
1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa
2000 bombing of the USS Cole.

Then 2001.

So why mention this? And I said something about a frog?

The point is this. We too often take an individual act as just that – individual – and fail to see the larger shift, the larger movement under our feet.

The things we do, the moments we share, the decisions we make are not in isolation. Taken together, a series of random events can point to a path, or a destination we would, given hindsight, rather not choose.

So it is today with our rush for technology to make our lives “easier.” In home assistants, driverless cars, DNA databases, smart phones – what we called in the 90s the “Internet of things.” Things that soon might own and control us, if they don’t already do.  Note the smartphone in your hand.

Or with our politics, one drum beat after another driving us apart. The moments become catchphrases, like Benghazi, or Charlottesville. Little by little, drip by drip, till one day you have that moment of clarity and wonder what the hell happened. When the water was getting warmer every day.

Past writers and historians have called out a warning, not from some prescient mind, but from reading the pages of history, seeing the same frog in the same pot, over and over. But we don’t notice.

So what then?

It would behoove oneself to keep his wits about him/her. I love that line from Inglorious Basterds.

Taking a step back and looking at things as they unfold and trying to see the larger result is always a good idea. And that means not just looking at things in the context of TODAY, but to try and anticipate the dynamics of tomorrow. Check the water temp, so to speak.

Had the right people in 1993 sorted out that the men trying to bring down the towers would use planes, not for hostages, but as missiles, maybe today would be different. Maybe not. It was just not something to consider. But I have to believe we are not passive victims of a larger humanity just rolling along.

We have eyes, we have ears, we have the sense to have sense. Maybe an anniversary like today should be a reminder that we are building our own futures, in an active voice.

Don’t settle for being the frog in the pot.