America the garden

Feb 22, 2017 at 11:03 am
Ricky Jones

Let’s talk about insects.

Insects are small, in comparison to humans. Their interactions with us generally come from a hand wave or the heel of a shoe. They don’t get much time to know us as anything more than annoyed murderers. They don’t spend much time with us, though sometimes they try. What they know of us is our role as lords over their existences. We allow them in our yard, or we attempt to keep them out by fumigating heavily, killing many of them and making ourselves sick. This is a metaphor. It is also the truth.

When I was pregnant with my son, I began to look at insects very differently. Just as my son was taking root and growing inside me, summer was beginning, and my old garden was filled with bright visitors. I saw them laying eggs, making homes and collecting food. They were, to some degree, at my mercy. I could pull out the insect spray whenever they were eating too much of my plants, or I could realize that I planted food, and their presence was a lovely as the flowers.

I discovered that the more I was around without interfering, the more they were around, and the less they’d dart away in fear. Grasshoppers especially hate to be bothered when they are relaxing. But when they realized that I wasn’t going to wave them off, that I could be still and that any move I made (planting new flowers, adding a rock for sunning) was with care to their wellbeing, something magical happened. They didn’t just stick around — they relaxed. I joined them to commune, and I learned something: All insects are not bad. Some eat too much from my favorite plants. Japanese beetles destroyed my Honeycrisp apple tree this year. They covered the tree, ate the apples and foliage. I took photographs of them and didn’t have to pick up rotted apples. It was a win-win.

I put myself in their world and decided what I got from them was more than the worth of a few leaves, or even the tiny fruit. They brought color, culture and vibrancy to my yard. They made the garden live.

I imagine myself with the power to allow, or destroy, what I don’t like about my garden. Imagine the same thing about life and my country.

Listening to Donald Trump talk about government says to me that he feels the same about the American press and the American people. He imagines himself with the power to destroy what he doesn’t like, to call it “fake news” because he doesn’t like what it says.

I could spray my entire garden with pesticides, and for a while, very few bugs would survive. My garden would begin to wither because those creatures that come to visit, serve a very important purpose. They spread pollen. They control detritus. Their bodies create and enrich the soil. If I destroy them, I destroy my garden.

Trump can make our cities military zones. He can build a wall. He can argue with and try to stifle free press. He can trigger a war with another nuclear power and risk generations of humanity, maybe all of it.

Here’s the problem:

If he creates militarized cities — he loves to mention Chicago — those cities become war zones, and we lose people on both sides for something that might best be remedied by finding a way out of poverty.

If he builds a wall to keep Mexicans out, our farmers have crops rot on the vine. Their profits fall, and our prices increase. He can destroy Kentucky’s racing industry’s ability to secure workers and prevent big Middle Eastern dollars from being spent to purchase and raise horses in our state.

If he stifles the press, the words will leak around him, and his already drafty house will be more of a mess, which in turn, puts us all at risk. The press is not his. We work for the public. Without us, his message exists in an echo chamber. This might not be terrible, but Americans should know what their representatives are doing. We should know when they aren’t good people. Trump is not a good person and proving to be a chaotic mess of a president only a month into his term.

A nation is much like the garden. We need diversity. We need free press. We need to live without threat of military action so that we preserve and fulfill that which our constitution claims. We can decide to disagree and that’s fine. We can’t exist without any of its component parts, even the ones we really hate. •