Fans of funny movies may well remember a Carl Reiner comedy from the 1960s called The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! In this Cold War-era classic, a Soviet submarine gets stuck on a sandbar off the coast of New England. Wishing to avert an international incident, the crew pose as Norwegian sailors and try to enlist the aide of island locals to help get them moving again fast.
Fortunately, we’re not so much sweating Soviet subs any longer, but there is another invasion that’s about to happen. And while it probably won’t be funny, it also won’t bring the threat of nuclear war either. I doubt if anyone will make a movie out of the event, but if they did, it could properly be called The Cicadas Are Coming! The Cicadas Are Coming!
The cicadas. Trillions of red-eyed, black bugs that are ready to emerge this month from their self-imposed 17-year exile beneath the earth. They’re expected to be in at least 15 states from Indiana to Georgia to New York. (Rumor has it they’re already popping out in huge numbers in Tennessee and North Carolina.)
If you don’t know about cicadas, their lifespan consists of spending well over a decade and a half isolated underground sucking on plant sap. (Think COVID existence before any of us had a clue what that meant.) When the time is ripe, up they come through the dirt around dusk. Countless numbers of them trying their best to emerge, shed their skin, and hightail it to nearby trees before they become dinner to all manner of predators.
So happy are they to be free they (well, the males at least) proclaim their independence VERY LOUDLY. In what is really apparently a mating call, suitors looking for an interested female will scream their intentions. The result kind of sounds as if everyone has decided to mow their lawns simultaneously . . . and nobody bought a muffler.
The bugs are really more of a nuisance than anything else. Extensive research shows that adult cicadas go about their business and the females lay their eggs on small branches of trees. The parents then fall down to the ground where they basically fertilize the trees they’ve been living under for many years. Within about six weeks, the little nymphs they’ve created tumble to the ground, apparently bounce twice (I have no idea how anybody figured that out), burrow into the soil, and go underground . . . for another 17 years.
Just as a sidelight here, do you suppose it would be possible to get all politicians on the same kind of lifecycle as the cicadas? Sure would save a bunch of headaches. Chances are, that’s not going to happen. But it occurred to me that the cicadas might be able to provide us with a life lesson having to do with federal finances.
As mentioned, there could well be trillions upon trillions of these little buggers covering grasslands and causing a cacophony of clatter in backyards for weeks. And the only cure for the outburst is for them to either die or go dormant.
Imagine, if you will, that each of those trillions of bugs represents one of the trillions of dollars our elected officials keep borrowing and spending. That money makes an awful lot of noise too. But unfortunately, the havoc it can cause doesn’t go away in a few weeks. And its consequences don’t just lie dormant for the next 17 years.
It’s been reported that the interest on just our current debt costs We the People over $1 billion a day. That’s before another asked-for $5-6 trillion is added into the equation. If my middle school math skills haven’t totally departed my brain yet, that translates into well over $1000 per day per American. (Operators are standing by to take your payment. Just dial 1-800-ARE-YOU-KIDDING-ME for assistance. Credit cards gladly accepted. Or crypto currency . . . whatever the heck that is.)
Wouldn’t it just kind of make sense to take a page out of the cicadas’ playbook and shut things down for a few years? There seem to be plenty of federal programs already on the books. Do we truly need more? Perhaps it’s even time for a few of them to die off as the adult bugs do.
Just something to think about as spring turns to summer and you can’t hear yourself think while sitting on your patio trying to talk above the noise. Too bad the cicadas and what they might represent aren’t as funny as the Russians were.
©MMXXI. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer