We've all heard the old story about the frog who, if tossed into a pot of boiling water, will immediately jump out -- but if placed into cold water that is slowly brought to a boil will allow itself to be scalded to death.
I don't know if that story is literally true, having never attempted to boil a frog (note to PETA: I swear), but as a metaphor it accurately describes a number of situations.
One of those is the situation in which we now find ourselves as a nation. To put it bluntly, we as free U.S. citizens are the frog, and the water is the power of government.
Any attempt to deny our freedoms wholesale would probably have been met with resistance, but we have stood by docilely for years while those same freedoms have been slowly stripped away.
How has this happened? A clue can be found in the debate over the size of government. Apparently, judging from the last two presidential elections, a small majority of Americans now believe that more government is preferable to less government.
(Or perhaps I should say, a small majority of those who vote. What the true majority of Americans seems to believe is that more reality television is preferable to less reality television.)
What those voters don't seem to understand -- or perhaps they do -- is that "to govern," by definition, means "to control." So in voting for a more active role on the part of the government -- in the economy, in health care, in education -- they're actually voting for more control over their own actions.
In other words, whether they know it or not, they're voting for less personal freedom.
And what are they hoping to get in exchange? Security. Particularly, in this case, financial security -- which may well prove to be elusive. As Benjamin Franklin said, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Nor, I might add, are they likely to have either.
This isn't necessarily a new trend -- obviously not, if Franklin felt led to address it 200 years ago. Nor it is specific to the Obama administration. The water has been slowly coming to a boil for years.
I first noticed the heat back in 2001, following the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Our government's response included the "Patriot Act," which trampled most un-patriotically on any number of rights (search and seizure, speech, assembly) in return for the promise of more security.
But the problem with giving up freedoms, as we've learned since, is that you never get them back. I expect we'll find that to be true in regard to those freedoms we've recently lost, concerning decisions about our health care and financial futures, and the ones we're about to lose, when our right to bear arms is inevitably infringed.
But, hey -- at least we'll all be "safer."
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter@rjenkinsgdp, and visit www.familymanthebook.com