Page Two: Frogs Were the Second Plague
The Time of the Toad, and a time to dance
"The Time of the Toad," an essay by Dalton Trumbo, begins by relating advice Émile Zola gave as to how to tolerate the "aggressive mendacity" of the press pushing the French Republic toward disaster.
"Zola explained ... his own method of inuring himself against newspaper columns. Each morning, over a period of time, he bought a toad in the market place, and devoured it alive and whole. The toads cost only three sous each, and after such a steady matutinal diet one could face almost any newspaper with a tranquil stomach, recognize and swallow the toad contained therein, and actually relish that which to healthy men not similarly immunized would be a lethal poison.
"All nations in the course of their histories have passed through periods which, to extend Zola's figure of speech, might be called the Time of the Toad: an epoch long or short as the temper of the people may permit, fatal or merely debilitating as the vitality of the people may determine, in which the nation turns upon itself in a kind of compulsive madness to deny all in its tradition that is clean, to exalt all that is vile, and to destroy any heretical minority which asserts toad-meat not to be the delicacy which governmental edict declares it."
Given these times in which smugly discrediting and defaming are liturgy, immediately to be noted is that Trumbo was one of the Hollywood Ten. Refusing to name names to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947, convicted of contempt of Congress, fined and jailed, they were then blacklisted by the studios.
"It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness," advised Eleanor Roosevelt. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror ...," said FDR.
President Donald Trump says fear is patriotism, distrusting our neighbors the pounding blood that keeps this nation alive. Terror is real and threatening, cursing the darkness necessary. There are so many cancers eating us from inside – immigrants, the media, teachers, Democrats, liberals, minorities – while outside much of the world is deadly and threatening, ready to tear us apart and drink our blood.
The plague of frogs is welcome, toads are enshrined, a golden idol molded in their image. Around it gather loyalists, nationalists, and sycophants, the fearful and the fanatic. Those patriots who know that their love of country is so great and pure that their actions are righteous, even if they shred and destroy the Constitution. The thrill for many of them is not just Trump's victory but the liberals' defeat: political correctness vanquished, multiculturalism defeated, those annoying minorities – racial, religious, or political – segregated and denied.
Although triumphant politically, there is no joy in Washington. Instead as bonfires burn, hate, prejudice, discrimination, and fear are chanted and cheered.
Those in opposition took to the streets, but even joined together there was uncertainty as to how to proceed. Slowly though there will be a remembering – of who we are and what this country is, of the paths tread and the changes sought and achieved. The reaffirmation of a shared vision more than 225 years along and words engraved a century back: Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...
Memory ignites identity, dreams breed vision, common decency and community offer a path. This great silence upon the land will be broken by prayers offered up, a deep screaming toward the heavens.
Not explained but understood, not demanded but known, will come the call to gather. Going to the dresser, to the bottom drawer buried beneath clothes no longer worn, or to the old trunk filled with blankets, the old symbols and signs will be dug out, these weapons of resistance retrieved. What needs to be done does not require speech: Those who have been there before know; those who haven't yet will learn.
The great joining will begin, the coming together of all regardless of sex, color, religious belief, nationality, or politics. Awoken the people can not be stopped. Those who have long gathered will do so again. Driven not by arrogance and rage, but caring and determination, with a deep love of country and a terrible sense of purpose.
A low hum at first heard from far away will grow louder as it rolls across the plains and valleys, cities and towns. Tens of thousands of voices and then tens of thousands more raised in protest, insisting this is our country, not their country.
There are toads upon the land, lice and flies, hail, locust and darkness we know are coming, yet to fear them is to welcome them. To confront fear with fear is to feed fear until it is all-consuming.
Instead there will be song and joy. "If there won't be dancing at the revolution, I'm not coming," said Emma Goldman. Dancing will begin with an invitation across the nation, a chance for folks to meet. There'll be laughing, singing, and music swinging, embracing rather than rejecting, joining not separating. There will be a swirl of mad colors and loud sounds – talk and laughter – silly, passionate, wild, and joyful – a time for celebration rather than lamentation. A time for dissent without hate, for resistance without violence, for remembering the power and the glory and not championing the tainted and mundane.
Then from every hilltop the sound of shofars being blown will be heard as the sky opens and rain pours down, devoid of amphibians, sweet and steady, the dancing continuing, the peoples' true revolution begun.