A few years back, I picked up an issue of National Geographic and stumbled upon the creepy true story of parasite wasps.
The stuff of nightmares, these sinister creatures inject their eggs into hapless victims. The developing larvae drain nutrients from their hosts' bodies and take control of their hosts' minds, directing their behaviors for the exclusive benefit of the nascent wasp.
Ladybugs protect the wasp larvae emerging from their bodies from would-be predators, only to die, gutted and paralyzed, after the wasps fly off.
Spiders affixed with wasp embryos sucking their blood for nourishment build webs designed not to trap food for themselves, but to shelter the growing wasp. When the job is completed, the spiders wither away.
Cockroaches drugged by a wasp sting obediently allow the wasp to lead them by their antennae into a burrow where they are implanted with eggs, serving as nurseries and ultimately as lunch for baby wasps.
This real-life horror tale has come vividly back to me as I watch the behavior of the Republican Party in response to the new presidency of Donald Trump. Like those crawly brainwashed victims, the majority of Republican senators and representatives are acting not on behalf of all Americans, whom they have pledged to serve (and by whom they are paid), but for the good of Donald Trump and his coterie of special interests.
As if under a hypnotic spell, they vote by overwhelming margins to approve Cabinet appointees with proven records of bigotry, corruption, and ignorance of the basic functions of the agencies they are supposed to head.
They remain silent while Trump and his surrogates undermine our democracy by threatening our judiciary, attempting to bully the press into submission and silence, and repeatedly lying to the American people.
They utter not a word of criticism when President Trump equates our country's moral standing with that of Russia and suspiciously cozies up to Vladimir Putin while berating long-time allies. In fact, Republican Congressman Steve King criticized Gary Kasparov, a Putin critic who was arrested and beaten multiple times by the Russian government, for calling out Trump's embrace of Putin, noting that Kasparov is still, after all, alive.
Our Republican Congress voices no outrage over National Security Advisor Mike Flynn having discussed with Russia's ambassador the lifting of sanctions imposed by the United States government against Russia for having interfered with our presidential election--a discussion that took place ahead of Trump's inauguration.
They are mute to Trump's violating free-market principles, ethics, and the very dignity of the United States as he berates companies that won't sell his family's products.
And they do not open their mouths in protest when Trump threatens to "destroy" the career of a state senator with whom he disagrees.
At Trump's behest, Jeb Hensarling, Republican Congressman and Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, has proposed quashing bank regulations that protect consumers, thereby exposing Americans to financial predators.
Bill Johnson, Republican Congressman, recently sponsored a measure (approved by House Republicans) that scuttled a regulation preventing the coal mining industry from dumping debris into streams.
And Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz threatened the Director of the United States Office of Government Ethics for questioning Trump's conflicts of interest.
We're just three weeks into this new administration, yet I could go on--and on--with such examples.
But I've made the point.
Do Republicans who unquestioningly line up behind Trump realize that--just to give a few looming consequences--they are working to undermine the financial well-being of fellow citizens, pollute our drinking water, and unravel the fabric of our democracy?
And I won't get into the dire results to the United States and to all life on earth if our nation's government continues to deny the reality of global warming and refuses to take action on this issue.
I am descended from a long line of Republicans: My great-great-grandfather was voting the ticket way back in the 1870s. So I am especially aggrieved that our Republican lawmakers do not see how their own behaviors and the policies that they are endorsing endanger the United States.
It is as if these senators and representatives don't realize that their will, their reason, and their ethics have been hijacked by the political equivalent of a parasite wasp.
I'm fearful how this will end. In nature, the wasps' victims die after acting against their own survival and being bled dry by their masters.
Will this be the fate of the United States? Our own government is now marching us away from the ideal we have striven to be, that flawed but shining city upon a hill, and toward becoming a riven, frightened kleptocracy.
The similarities between the tale of the parasite wasp and our own predicament do not end there. One particular wasp's sting contains a virus whose agenda of mayhem dovetails nicely with that of the wasp. It's as if the parasite wasp is acting both on its behalf and in the service of the virus it unknowingly hosts. The parallels to Trump and Russia are obvious.
The good news is that we humans are capable of a great deal more awareness than are our distant insect and arachnid cousins. So I am hopeful that patriotic Americans of all political stripes will utilize this gift to realize exactly what is being done to us, and take immediate action.
Let us sound every alarm and use every tool in our arsenal to pull our beloved country out of the grip of those who seek to undermine our democracy and those who, zombie-like, are enabling this to happen.