home > archive > 2004 > this article
The seventeen year itch
By Lisa Fabrizio
Fifty-one years ago on a bright spring day in a sun-dappled grove, a pair of young lovers rose from slumber, spread their wings and burst into song. For the next month or so, Sam and Cindy spent their days and nights engaging in the ritualistic mating-cycle practiced by their progenitors for centuries. At the end of their courtship, Cindy Cicada gave birth to 500 or so offspring thus giving new meaning to the phrase, "making beautiful music together."
These two would be the first of the Baby Boomer cicadas to reproduce. As they prepared to hand over the future to the next generation of red-eyed, American Homopterae, they looked around and saw that all was good. The Korean War was over, Ike was in the White House and the hard-won peace and prosperity were expected to last forever.
We all loved Lucy and the way that Joe Friday protected us from the bad guys. Frank Sinatra sang, "I've Got The World On A String" which seemed to sum up the feeling nicely. All in all, quite a nice environment in which to raise a horde of plant-sucking larvae. And so, as Sam and Cindy departed the scene, their progeny burrowed into the ground to await their date to mate and procreate.
But the world into which they emerged seventeen years later was not that of their nymph-hood. Gone was the air of domestic tranquility, replaced by a national upheaval of values and mores, of war and peaceniks and rebellion across racial, gender and social lines.
America was turned upside down as the flag and soldiers were mocked, and symbols of authority such as parents, police, the clergy and President Nixon were held in contempt. No one over thirty was to be trusted except those who substituted mind-bending drugs for youth and jumped onboard the anarchy express.
And the music! Where they had once been rocked to sleep by the smooth sounds of Doris Day and Nat King Cole, the cicada sibs were now rocked by humans with women's hair who sang like men, and women who dressed like men yet sang like banshees. Even their own sweet, summer songs were drowned out by the cacophony that had overtaken the nation. It was enough to drive one buggy and underground for almost two more decades.
Still, out they came, these Generation Brood Xers and found that the world indeed had turned once more, but not in the way they'd expected. When they had gone to ground as hatchlings, all hell was breaking loose in the USA and it seemed that any one of a number of catastrophes would serve to break the great nation.
Yet, when they rubbed the dirt out of their blinkless eyes in spring of 1987 it seemed the only thing that mattered at all was something called an Iran-Contra Affair. Given the time of their previous emergence they naturally thought this was some sort of international free-love coupling protest, designed to promote peace, love and really good sex.
Strange also was the behavior and appearance of the humans, who once again resembled the creatures spoken of by their elders. Gone were the hirsute hippies, replaced by clean-cut, flag-waving Americans led by a man re-elected by all the states in the Union save one. This pleased the heretofore under-motivated Brood Xers who began to breed at a prodigious pace in hopes that the next rising of their species would benefit from this change as well as something called trickle-down economics.
So it has come to pass in the past few weeks, that the latest descendants of Sam and Cindy have crawled out of the earth to survey the situation and suck some super-fine tree sap. And possibly for the first time, their human hosts have actually noticed them, spreading Cicada Mania among the populace; a kind of arthropodic shock and awe.
They find our nation not so much cosmetically changed this time around, but that a line of demarcation has been drawn between its media elites and the rest of the population. The highly intelligent cicadas hear one thing emitting from TV sets while perched high in trees in the cool evenings, yet their bulging eyes bear witness to a wholly different mindset among the working-class humans who greet the day.
This phenomenon taken together with the history of post-WWII cicadas should provide a cautionary tale for the elites and their allies in the Democratic Party. For each time these little buggers have surfaced every seventeen years, they have landed smack in the middle of a two-term Republican presidency.
May they sing their sweet song from now to November.
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996-2019, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.