Several years ago, I wrote a book about the lessons of Aesop's Fables. I learned that during the sixth century B.C., Aesop had become counselor to one of the most powerful kings in Asia Minor. His stories focused on a few truths that he believed leaders needed to understand before they could improve the lives of the people they served. His fables were not written to entertain children. His stories about lions, birds, and donkeys were written to help leaders understand the consequences of arrogance, indifference, greed, and misused power. Aesop's ideas provided reality checks that are as relevant today as they were then.
This first morning after the election, leadership for the Republican party desperately needs advice from political philosophers the caliber of Aesop rather than the Karl Roves and Steve Schmidts who have left the GOP looking like a train wreck. If I were to pick one of my modernized versions of an Aesop fable that seems relevant for the GOP this morning, it would be this one:
A tadpole lived at the edge of a pond. Around that pond, lived the tadpole's friends; butterflies, earthworms, and dragonflies. The tadpole's friends were different shapes, sizes, and colors. All of them looked different than the tadpole, but the tadpole called them friends. After all, they lived in that pond together as a family. Those friends, as different as they were, looked out for the tadpole and the tadpole looked out for them. One day, the tadpole began to worry that his friends were disappearing.
He sensed that the few dragon flies, butterflies, and earthworms that were still around appeared to be avoiding him. In fact, he believed they were growing afraid of him. One morning, a dragonfly came buzzing overhead. The tadpole asked the dragonfly what had changed. Why did he feel so alone? The dragonfly said, "just look at yourself." The dragonfly urged him to look at himself in the reflection from the pond. What he noticed is that he was no longer a tadpole. He had grown into an odd looking creature that he no longer recognized. The dragonfly had to tell his friend that he had become a hideous looking toad and that he was barely recognizable to his friends.
The dragonfly explained to the toad that the tadpole had changed so gradually that the tadpole had not noticed what had occurred. But the four legs, the creepy bulging eyes, and the new skin was the less serious part of what the toad had grown into. What was most troubling to the toad is that the dragonfly explained that the toad was actually eating his own friends. He first ate the earthworms, then the butterflies, then most of the dragonflies. At that instant, the toad, as if unaware of what he was doing, stretched out his long toad tongue, pulled the dragonfly out of the air and swallowed one of his last friends. In the end, the fat toad never saw it coming, but he suddenly felt completely alone on that pond surrounded only by other toads who looked just like him. The other creatures had moved to another pond.
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