Politicians could learn from fire ants

Published 12:02 am Sunday, November 7, 2010

The ink on the Election Day results had not even dried before a talking head began opining about the 2012 election.

If only we could learn from fire ants.

Politics has become a 24-hour, 365-day-a-year business — thanks mostly to the incessant ramble of all-day news stations — and it is doing little but tearing us apart even further.

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Sometimes I feel like I am sitting in a border state in January 1860. No matter the topic, we will find a way to disagree. Little will get done (maybe not a bad thing) by our “leaders.” They will play games, use double-speak and feign anger at the other side. Our president once said we are not blue states and red states, but the United States.

More than six years have passed since that speech by a junior senator from Illinois. How many can honestly say we are the “United States” at this moment in history? Certainly it would be nice to rally around a common goal.

Enter the fire ants.

Rains finally pelted the country landscape near Edwards on Tuesday. By Wednesday evening, dirt mounds sprouted up like mushrooms, dotting the land like pine trees. Tuesday morning these civilizations did not exist. The arid conditions sent fire ants into hiding. One good rain later and they fire into action.

Fire ants are not blessed with the ability to think and complain, to ask others to carry the weight. Fire ants aren’t waiting to be saved from a body of other fire ants thousands of miles away.

Mounds need to be built — one spec of dirt at a time — and they just do it. A fire ant is about the size of half a finger nail, maybe even smaller. Each spec of dirt, taken individually, is nothing. But working together, those specs of dirt lay a foundation for a vibrant ant civilization where the ants either find a way to work in unison and survive, or be lost to history.

In one day, fire ants took freshly moistened soil and turned it into a colony, spec by spec.

In that same day, Americans continue to be told they are entitled to prosperity and happiness, whether one works for it or not. Fire ants aren’t entitled to bubkis, yet they keep surviving and expanding. A drought kept those ants from building for two months, but when the opportunity presented itself and with a common goal, colonies sprouted out of control.

We could be so lucky.

Sean P. Murphy is web editor. He can be reached at smurphy@vicksburgpost.com