Slimantics: The life cycle of the Mississippi Cicada

 

Slim Smith

 

 

If politicians were insects -- and I'm not saying they aren't -- they would likely be cicadas.

 

Cicadas spent most of their existence living quietly underground, emerging as adults and making lots of noise -- especially the male cicadas. It's about the only thing anyone ever notices about cicadas. They make a helluva racket.

 

Depending on the species, the life cycle of the cicada ranges anywhere from one or two years to 17 years.

 

 

In Mississippi, the dominant species of cicada is one follows a four-year cycle.

 

It is known as Cicada Republicanus.

 

For the previous three years, Mississippi's Republican cicadas, who control all three branches of our state government, have rested comfortably and quietly in their subterranean burrows.

 

For those three years, they've uttered scarcely a peep on the issues that most affect Mississippians -- deteriorating roads and bridges, chronically underfunded public education at every level, the collapse of our rural hospitals, and the inability of almost 300,000 working people in our state to have health insurance that would be provided through Medicaid expansion.

 

That is not to say the Cicada Republicanus haven't been busy, though.

 

In the past three years, they've been working deep in their burrows, slashing taxes for big corporations, plotting new under-the-table ways to funnel tax dollars to the private schools you can't afford to send your kids to, gutting budgets of state agencies we rely on for essential services and generally looking out for wealthy Mississippians, which in our state is a relatively small group.

 

But in the fourth year of their cycle, Cicada Republicanus emerge from the safety of their dark holes and have to give an accounting for the underground activities. It's scary out here in the daylight. There just aren't enough rich Mississippians to ensure their survival.

 

We call this stage of Cicada Republicanus development the Election Cycle, a period best noted for all the noise they make on issues they've been ignoring.

 

The chirping began in January in the Cicada Republicanus-controlled Legislature. They passed a band-aid of an infrastructure bill -- appropriating $1.2 billion to solve a $3.5 billion problem. They also tossed a bone to public education, not by providing the funds our public schools need -- they would rather die than do that -- but by trying to pander to teachers through a $1,500 pay raise. It started out as a $4,000 raise, but they quickly realized that -- well, let's face it -- teachers just don't deserve that kind of money.

 

They've chirped only a little about the plight of rural hospitals or expanding Medicaid because, of course, Obama.

 

But they promise these problems will just go away if people will just shut up and get an extra job or two and move someplace civilized enough to be worthy of hospital access.

 

Yes, in the Election Cycle, the Cicada Republicanus make vague promises to fix all the problems they themselves have been responsible for during the previous three years.

 

Today is Election Day. And if nothing else is accomplished today at least the noise will end.

 

Cicada Republicanus will retreat again into the depths, make their dark deals, and wait for three years, just long enough for us to have forgotten all their unkept promises.

 

And the cycle will repeat itself.

 

Unless, of course, the voters decide otherwise.

 

Until now, the chirping of Cicadas Republicanus has drowned out the voices calling for accountability.

 

Today, it's your voice that will be heard at the one place where it matters: the voting booth.

 

 

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]

 

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