Sage Stretch ‘24
They emerge from underground, they scream in search of a partner, then they leave their carcasses on our sidewalks. Spring of 2021 brings the heavily anticipated return of Brood X, the colossal batch of cicadas that return every seventeen years. They stare at us with those red beady eyes, so we have to ask: what are they seeing? And how is it different from the last time they were here? The world is a vastly different place from what it was in 2004, and even more so from seventeen years before that, in 1987. However, they may notice that much has also stayed the same.
This year, as the cicadas emerge, they watch people staring at tiny smartphones, the super computers that can fit in our pockets. They see social media having expanded from one dominant platform (Myspace had one million users and Facebook was still in Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room) to dozens that shape our lives today. They hear complicated conversations about artificial intelligence and cryptocurrencies, all new to them. They might find fences and blockades around the Capitol, still recovering from the insurrection on January 6th.
Although they are stunned by the changes, not everything is different from their last visit. In 2004, the cicadas might have heard announcers on ESPN explain events that sound remarkably familiar to us in 2021: Tom Brady leads his team to the Super Bowl and wins MVP; LeBron James stuns the NBA despite his age; Both Rodger Federer and Serena Williams competed in Wimbledon championship matches, just as they did in 2019 (the last time Wimbledon was played due to the pandemic). Even a news channel might sound the same: violence in the Middle East terrorizes many and sparks protests.
But not everything is the same. In 2004, the cicadas saw a peaceful election with a Republican winner, George W. Bush. Skype was launched, bringing us closer to The Jetsons and paving the way for the dozens of video chat services available now. Facebook was just starting out, yet now it is a multi-platform company with billions of users. Ronald Reagan died during the 2004 cicada visit, which may have saddened the cicadas, as he was president during their previous visit in 1987.
In 1987, East Coasters greeted the same cicada brood as well. When they emerged in 1987, they saw people glued to their box televisions watching The Cosby Show. Once again, the cicadas were stunned by the transition in technology. For the first time, the cicadas saw Microsoft 2.0 computers in use. Yet again, not everything changes during the cicada's hibernation. One comfort for the cicadas is Monday Night Football. When they appeared in 1987, Monday Night Football was one of the top-rated programs in the United States along with 60 Minutes. Both programs have withstood the decades, and both still have high ratings.
As they reflect, the cicadas might be overwhelmed by the rapidly changing world. They only have a couple of weeks to catch up on everything they miss over seventeen years.