Small World: Seeming to snore, but never sleeping
By Henry Precht
Down here in Maryland we are experiencing a phenomenon that has, so far, defied agreed explanation — 17-year cicadas are appearing after only 13 years under the earth. We hear their song (male mating calls or intermittent snoring?) in the evening, espy their holes in the unpaved ground, and the next morning in the surrounding area find their bodies, sometimes pecked over by birds.
Neither the noise nor the holes and nor the scattered corpses are as loud or as numerous as they were on the last appearance of this species in 2003. The press tells us we can still expect another on-time, large-scale arrival around 2020, just as nature has always planned.
What’s going on here? Can an explanation be found for this early event? Washington abounds in pundits, scientists (self-appointed and legal), academics, and demonstration leaders. I decided to poke around and see if I might dig up a plausible answer — or at least a good guess.
A covey of Republican pundits told me: “Despite the best efforts of the media enemy and other Democrats to defame the Trump administration, we see the natural world is endorsing our natural leader. We know that cicadas emerge from underground to mate. What these creatures are saying to America is, ‘let the good times roll! Just like our and your leader, we think the time for pure, natural fun and profit should not be delayed, even if it means a much-shortened period of maturity.’”
Another batch of Republicans take a different view. These deeply conservative folk point out that most of the 17-year breed is staying underground “in accord with traditional values. They will emerge precisely at the divinely stipulated hour. Those who push ahead of the schedule must be excused as they express the ebullience of their — and our — leader.”
The Democratic talking heads, of course, have quite a different interpretation: “Those cicadas who emerge are part of the Trump bunch who don’t go by the normal ‘majority rules,’ but instead, like the Trump election ‘victory,’ rely on out-of-date Constitutional quirks like the Electoral College.” Other Democrats say that the cicada racket is the same pointless noise we have heard from the obstructionist pleading of Republican leaders for eight years and more. If one subtracts those dead, wasted years from the anticipated natural total, the perceptive observer will understand that, like Republicans, cicadas have a lot of time to make up.
I then asked some of those environmental scientists who are always keen to be interviewed. First, the “climate change is real news” bunch. They say that global warming has advanced so fast that the cicadas — like icebergs — feel uncomfortable maintaining their tether to the earth. Cicadas that emerge in Maryland will re-settle in Maine or points north. They worry that some horrible creatures will rapidly evolve to fill in (as it were) for the migrating 17-year clan.
The opposing theorists — those who think climate change is fake stuff — opine, “Check out China — yet another hoax!”
Suppose the cicadas had emerged a year ago, during the election season. “Have you noticed,” Bernie would ask, “only those who live in high-rise apartments, surrounded by concrete, are unaffected by the emergence? Normal middle class folk have to suffer the racket and plethora of the corpses.” Come her turn, Hillary might venture, “Sure I’ve experienced the whole schmeer from the days when Bill was a fun-loving governor. Been there, done that, but I wouldn’t have lost the election if the Russians hadn’t messed with my e-mails and Jim Comey had or had not worked against me — that cicada lover!
An explanation sought from Republican presidential wannnabes during the primary season would have produced 16 or 17 attacks on Trump. He, in turn, would have tweeted something to the effect that no one, not even a sex-starved cicada, had ever been made to suffer like him. But, despite media provocations, he wasn’t going to join in the croaking chorus. Never…unless the cicada song was adapted to praise his golf courses.
Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.