By Dianne Witte
With all the rain we’ve had lately, chances are you’ve seen a frog or two recently. Just because they aren’t unexpected, doesn’t mean they don’t have significance. If you “noticed,” then there IS a message in their presence for you.
We have a small pond in our backyard and have counted as many as 14 frogs around it at a time. I didn’t take much notice, until recently I ran across a fable about the frog. The story goes….
Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess who had a golden ball. One day, while playing in the garden, the ball fell into a pond. She was very upset and did not know what to do. While she sat there crying helplessly, a frog hopped out of the pond and asked, “Why are you crying, little princess?” She told him about her golden ball. The ugly frog said, “I can help you get your ball but what will you give me in return?” “I will give you anything you want!” promised the princess. The frog immediately dived into the water and fetched the ball for her. The princess was very happy. The frog reminded her, “Remember that you promised me anything. Well, I want to be your friend, eat from your plate, and sleep in your palace!” The princess hated the idea but she agreed and ran back to the palace.
The next morning, the princess found the frog waiting for her. He said, “I have come to live in your palace.” Hearing this, the princess ran to her father, crying. When the kind king heard about the promise, he told her, “A promise is a promise and you must keep your word. You must let the frog stay here.” The princess was very angry but she had no choice and let the frog stay. He ate from her plate during dinner and asked the princess to take him to her bed at night.
So the princess took him to her chamber and left him on the pillow next to hers. The frog slept next to the princess as she had promised him and in the morning he hopped downstairs and went out of the castle.
“Phew,” sighed the princess when she woke up and saw that the frog was gone, “He won’t bother me again, now that I have granted him the wish.”
But she was wrong, because the frog came back in the evening and asked the princess to sleep next to her again. Again, he was gone in the morning. She really hoped that it was the last night she had to sleep next to a frog.
But the evening came and the frog came along with it for a third time. She let him in her room again but she had started to think of a way to get rid of him. With plans running through her mind she fell asleep.
When she woke up in the morning the frog was gone and a handsome prince was looking at her with his beautiful brown eyes. She was pleasantly shocked, but she couldn’t understand what had happened overnight.
The prince told her the story of the curse that had been put on him. “I was a prince and I lived in a castle just like you, but then one day a spiteful fairy put a spell on me. I had to find a princess who would let me live with her, eat from her plate and sleep in her bed, so that I could break the spell. I am so happy that you were that princess, who got me out of my misery,” he said.
Fables are stories told to teach some significant truth or lesson. In this story, there are several “lessons” we could examine, but I am interested in the disgust the princess had for the frog. Wasn’t that a bias she accepted at face value? She had been socialized to think a frog is ugly and just gross…..not human.
We have a similar case today in the rhetoric made valid by some “witches’ spell” saying that immigrants are “illegal aliens” (frogs) and less than US citizens. Fortunately, we were recently forced to look at where that view has moved us. We became participants in the practice of separating children from their families. Now we have to face the ugly fact that WE changed into an ugly frog. How do we wash away that ugliness?
An example of hidden bias might be what I learned from a TED talk. The speaker tells how impoverished areas of most cities are to be found on the East side. Think of some cities you’re familiar with. It’s true, isn’t it? But, why is that? He revealed it’s because the prevailing wind is from the West. As a result the East side is “downwind” from the nasty smoke stacks, noisy trains and general stink of squalor. See how bias is hidden?
Another example was on a trip South recently. I couldn’t believe my ears when our tour bus driver declared that the Blacks wanted to stay separate from the Whites, so that’s why they have a separate school for the Whites and one for the Blacks.
Institutional and structural (hidden) bias is the primary reason why our prisons and jails have a disproportionate number of non-white populations. Most are there because they are not privileged to have adequate representation and support in the court system and life, in general.
These are just a few examples of areas that need our attention, but perhaps there are signs our true beauty of compassion is showing through: like the uproar generated when the policy of taking children away from their parents was exposed. Love did that. Caring came forward as the whole world watched when 12 Thai boys and their coach were rescued from a cave. Love did that. When people reach out to help people devastated by fire and flood, it’s compassion that steps forward. Let’s keep shining the sun of compassion wherever our stereotypes are exposed. Every chance you get. Booyah!