According to Wikipedia, the expression comes from an ancient anecdote that crocodiles weep for the victims they are eating. A collection of proverbs, attributed to Plutarch, suggests that the phrase "crocodile tears" was well known in antiquity. It was used to compare the crocodile's behavior with that of people who desire or cause the death of someone, but then publicly lament for them.
In reality, crocodiles can and do generate tears. The tears are not linked to emotion. The fluid from their tear ducts functions to clean and lubricate the eye. It is most visible when crocodiles have been on dry land for a while. In the case of American and saltwater crocodiles, the tears help rid of the excess salt that they take in with their food.
The comparisons here, of crocodiles to modern political behavior, are too similar to ignore. How many times do we witness someone, running for re-election, crying “crocodile tears” about an issue that he/she had repeatedly voted against? Even crocodiles would be embarrassed by this stone-cold hypocrisy.
There are any other number of types of animal behavior that are analogous as well. The herding instinct fits the bill. Putting one’s head in the sand like an Ostrich, on a politically sensitive issue, also fits the profile. Braying loudly like a donkey sure sound familiar. And the iconic image of three (or several hundred) simians, who see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing, also applies on many issues.
And then there is Pavlov’s conditioning. A drug company bill, an NRA issue or anything dictated by a party’s leadership will engender immediate complicity of legislative actions, like Pavlovian dogs salivating to a ringing bell. Conditioning gets more entrenched with incumbency. Maybe the taxpayers all should have conditioning bells too. Of course, in fact, we do. It is called the vote. Showing an elected official that you are an informed and aware citizen, with the power of the vote sure gets their attention. Most responsible elected officials understand the process well and pay heed to what their constituents have to say. The others, I think, may well need some instruction in Pavlov’s conditioning process.
Why not try the idea out this election day, by voting? Perhaps you, and all future elected officials, will get used to the new relationship and everyone will be better off for the conditioning.
Joseph Xavier Martin