There is an undeniable, albeit regrettable, similarity between our elected reprehensibles (sic) in Congress and Thaumetopoea Processionea in the larval stage, better known to the well-informed likes of you as Processionary Caterpillars; let's call them PCs for short.
Just in case you're not familiar with these creepy critters, PCs are characterized by an inbred instinct to doggedly follow the caterpillars directly in front of them, with neither question nor hesitation nor reservation about the direction in which they are being led.
ASIDE – The "PC" acronym used here also denotes "Political Correctness," an accidental coincidence, but descriptive of a legitimately intimate relationship.
Only that coincidence, and the aforementioned instinct, can explain the frequency – make that the nearabout certainty – with which both sides of the Congressional aisle tend to move in lockstep behind their respective leaders. (Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to rigidly comply.)
For proof of this proclivity, check out the "rubberstamp" roll calls on C-SPAN, the next time you have next-to-nothing to do.
Just like fledgling politicians, Processionary Caterpillars begin their occupational lives by ranging far and wide in search of food to satisfy their voracious appetites.
In doing so, they encounter their competitors and other obstacles standing between them and their goals.
Through trial and error, they learn that the path of least resistance is attaching themselves in long head-to-tail processions, mindlessly following the crowd.
When the hunting is good and the leadership is skillful, they usually survive.
However, as reported in an earlier column, French naturalist John Henry Fabre (1823-1915) conducted an unusual and revealing experiment, which might be frighteningly applicable to our current procedure in Congress.
He filled a flower pot nearly to the rim with the pine needles which represented the PCs' staple diet, then induced one insect to start circling the rim of the pot. The others instinctively followed suit, ultimately forming a tight circle, in which the roles of leader and follower soon became blurred.
Instead of getting frustrated by this unproductive activity, the caterpillars, through force of habit, pursued their foodless trek for an extended period, before falling dead from exhaustion and starvation – this, mind you, with an abundance of sustenance mere inches away.
They were, in tragic fact, victims of the pattern of behavior into which they had fallen, and upon which they blindly relied for results, while accomplishing nothing other than foolishly working themselves to death.
Okay, if I haven't lost you by now, it's time to make the comparisons which have, most likely, already occurred to you, but which merit a hammering-home.
The constantly changing needs of their constituents should require that legislators adjust their positions and strategies accordingly, rather than blindly blabbering the talking points and following the system-serving orders of party leadership.
It is difficult – nay, impossible – to accept the notion that independently-thinking elected officials can unanimously come to the same conclusions, and back the same strategies, as their partisan colleagues and respective team leaders.
But this is exactly what they do, repeatedly, unswervingly and predictably leading to nothing more productive than reciprocal finger-pointing and unbreakable gridlock.
Changing conditions, such as those faced by Congress, demand flexible and independent thinking, always guided by the best interests of the electorate rather than the dictates of partisan leadership.
The fact that this guidance is lacking needs no more evidence than the processionary procedures currently witnessed in almost every roll call in the highest echelons of American governance.
There, sadly, compromise is a detestable four-letter word and what is best for those governed takes a back seat to the narrow objectives and narrower minds of those governing.
Interestingly, although the popularity rating of Congress is hovering perilously near the level of jock itch and urinary tract infections, the turnover rate on Capitol Hill is notably low.
This strongly suggests that, although we are profoundly unhappy with what they do, we are stubbornly reluctant to deprive our reprehensibles of their power to continue doing it.
SECOND ASIDE: Insanity has more than occasionally been defined as doing the same things repeatedly and expecting different results; but that seems to be the present game plan of we, the people (sheeple, maybe?).
All of this might strongly suggest that the time has come (maybe passed) for a thorough House- and Senate-cleaning before the entrenched mice, lice and vermin bring our governmental house of cards tumbling down into a heap of historical rubble.
Past control seems to have failed, so maybe pest control is the answer.
Starting, one hastens to add, with the ones representing – or misrepresenting – your own most cherished interests.
Freelance wordworker Joe Klock Sr. winters in Key Largo and Coral Gables, Fla., and summers in New Hampshire. More of his "Klockwork" can be found at www.joeklock.com.