Wikipedia identifies three dozen Siluriformes or Nematognathi with names like Ailidae, Bagridae and Kryptoglanis shajii (Superman’s scaled nemesis?). Hiding in this eye-crossing taxonomy are the channel, pond and mud catfish we consume with hush puppies, fries and tartar sauce. Wikipedia, ichthyologist and “Fat Fred’s Fried Fish” notwithstanding, two hybrid catfish families go unrecognized: Political and Religious.
At risk of wading in over my head, allow me to examine characteristics of these landlocked fishes. Politics: Greek for “affairs of the cities” or means through which group affairs are organized. Religion: Latin “re, back” plus ligare, ligament, to bind or connect , rebind or reconnect. As if non-aquatic craniates yearn to reclaim something we lost.
Birth “thrusts” all catfish into foreign water. With tiny eyes and brains aquatic varieties grope the bottom gulping whatever ill-fated worm, tadpole, dog kibble, dough-ball—hook-less or not—that bumps against their whiskers. Safe to say, apart from a malign current these catfish never stray from the water and school where they hatched.
Having not yet acquired the tools and experience to discriminate, terrestrial fingerlings gulp cultural norms as their aquatic cousins grab a grub or Power Bait. We eat what’s served and become what we eat! Clean Plate Club members get desert!
Mature terrestrial catfish enjoy an advantage over our water-born cousins. Unlike aquatic varieties, behind a bulbous forehead a marvelous lump of matter allows landlocked osteichthyes to think! This amazing, sometimes brilliant, sometimes foolish, ever chattering gray glob makes all the difference! Adult dry-land catfish acquire the capability to puzzle and worry, to accept or reject a grub, insect or snail their home school offers.
No catfish, aquatic or terrestrial, is exempt from malign currents, turbid water, scarcity of grubs, worms and the ever-threatening treble hook. Despite a sometimes unbearable environment and suffering, however, the majority of Political and Religious catfish find sufficient support and safety to remain with their home school.
We are Political/Religious catfish hybrids. If what’s served tastes bad, putrid, poisonous or may hide a hook, we landlocked cats can exercise the wisdom to spit or vomit! If our school begins to feel toxic, overly aggressive, misled, misguided or cannibalistic, we may leave home water and search out a new more benign school.