“Slightly soiled, but but very much alive.”

I was reading along happily in the science section of the New York Times when I came across this paragraph (below) and especially the clause, “slightly soiled, but very much alive.”

Seems harmless, doesn’t it? Except that I had just been reading Ross Douthat’s columns about the beginnings of real Republican resistance to the Trump presidency. These Republicans apparently want the Republican party to survive the experience of having been swallowed and return to being a voice for the conservative notion of sanity and prudence.

And I’ve also been reading about a number of Jesus’ parables, some of which appear toBug 1 have been allegorized on the spot, especially by Mark and Matthew. You hear a suggestive phrase and it blossoms almost immediately into an allegory where each part of the story represents some identifiable part of the real world.

So put those three backgrounds together and if you think about it for a very short time, you might guess what is about to happen. Here is the whole paragraph by Times Science writer Katherine J. Wu.

…Usually, that’s it.“Not today.” After getting swallowed by a frog, this plucky little insect can scuttle down the amphibian’s gut and force it to poop — emerging slightly soiled, but very much alive.

So in this little allegory, which assembled itself without any intention on my part, the frog is Donald Trump. Trump has swallowed the Republican party and usually, “that’s it.” The “plucky little insect,” (the Republican party) however, has found a way to make it quickly to the launch pad and force the frog—the scientist studying this speculates that the insect tickles the sphincter—to poop him out safe and sound. “Slightly soiled,” as Ms. Wu says, but “very much alive.”

A much more useful allegory would suggest just what the bug does to achieve this effect. The gastric juices of the frog are potent and whatever the bug does needs to be done quickly. There are two things that needs to be done. The first is to navigate to the other end of the frog. This requires some use of the bug’s legs, so it is apparently something like “swimming.” The other is to irritate—you only call it “tickling” if you are in the mood for it—the sphincter so it loosens up and allows…um…egress.

Lining this crude little allegory up with the present world, we can see problems right away. First of all, the bug (the party) needs to want to swim and needs to know where to swim. It seems unlikely to me that there is a visible exit sign to help them. And “swimming” is not just a flailing about of the legs. It is the purposeful coordination of the legs so as to cause propulsion.

Nothing I have heard from the Republicans for awhile suggests that kind of coordination.

The second trick is to irritate (tickle) the sphincter. This isn’t like jumping out the end of a sewer pipe. There is an active closure mechanism—something like a locked door—that needs to be solved. I hope it doesn’t require tickling. The Trump administration hasn’t been tickled by much since the inauguration. My hope is that the scientists will eventually broaden “tickle” to “irritate,” which is a great deal easier if Donald Trump is the frog.

That really concludes the allegory, but parties are in this respect unlike these marvelous bugs. When they “emerge soiled” they really need to do something about it before the next election. I have heard people say they will hold their noses and vote Republican, but this is an extreme provocation and one wonders just how long these noses can be held.

No, I think the party needs to come to some understanding of just how it got that soiled; how to prevent it in the future; and how to get cleaned up right now.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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1 Response to “Slightly soiled, but but very much alive.”

  1. karlhess says:

    Thanks for sending this, it wasn’t in our science section today.



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