On winning, ant hills and one-party system in Utah

Source: Herald Journal

Winning brings on a high more potent than the strongest drug. We were right and they were wrong. Our team, our religion, our ideas, our way of life is superior to theirs. The more dominant the win, the greater the high. We are in control and they should do things our way.

All too often the high from trouncing the enemy blinds us from our responsibilities as the winner. We may ignore a whispering sadness associated with victory that may be more important than the high from our win.

We have a patio with bricks on a sand base. Every year for 20 years one or more colonies of small ants establish a home beneath our bricks and bring sand to the surface. I tried many commercial products, each with its advantages and horrors. The most effective, and probably the safest for humans, is feeding the queen boron, an element readily available in the household cleaner Borax or in boric acid from your pharmacy.

The first step in eradicating an ant colony is finding out what the ants like to eat. Then feed them their favorite food laced with boron and hope they take a big helping to their queen before they die. Last week I scattered jam, bacon, various nuts and mixtures across the patio. The ant favorite was peanut butter. I filled drinking straws with mixture of peanut butter, olive oil and Borax and placed them where birds, pets or children couldn’t easily get to them. Within hours there were trails of busy worker ants taking deadly food into their dens.

Soon there were no castings on the patio. Only an occasional ant moved deadly peanut butter to the den. Workers brought dead ants to the surface. I don’t know whether the queen ate boron or if she will continue to produce new workers. Dead and dying ants littered our patio. The colony was in crisis.

A sadness engulfed me. I was winning a patio war by destroying an industrious, well organized population of industrious beings. We couldn’t negotiate ways to use a common habitat. Although I was outnumbered, they were no match for me. Ant scientist E.O. Wilson has estimated there are more than a million ants for each human. I was bigger, stronger and had access to more powerful tools.

The ants’ opinion (if they have one) on issues that affect their lives does not matter any more than that of a Utahn who is not an elected delegate to the Republican Convention. During the last Utah Legislative session, Republican senators met and drafted legislation in closed caucuses. Duly elected senators of other parties were excluded. People like me were locked out.

Most school teachers in Cache Valley expose students to different ideas, lifestyles and forms of government. But that may change. Republicans added an amemdment to SB78 during the 2016 Legislative session that could make members of the State Board of Education partisan representatives.

Former Republican legislator Sheryl Allen wrote in the Salt Lake Tribune: “Data-driven scientific standards, information and public education decisions will become less important when those partisan candidates are elected as partisan members of the State Board of Education. Party elites will frequently remind state board candidates of the principles stated in their party platform and bylaws and demand conformity by elected board members.”

In 2016, Utah was the nation’s fastest-growing state. Its population increased 2.0 percent to 3.1 million people. A study by the Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah showed that 4 out of every 10 new Utahns and 26.8 percent of the pre-school population were ethnic minorities. Thousands of Americans from other states move into our state each year.

Numerous polls show a majority of Utahns presently differ from their representatives on such partisan issues as who should own public land and how it should be managed, who should have affordable health care and how it should be financed, whether our cars should be inspected for safety, the treatment of undocumented immigrants and whether restaurants should mix alcoholic beverages where children can see them.

Newcomers bring new ideas, different talents and darling babies that could change Utah for the better. But if Ms. Allen’s prediction is correct, our educational system could become a place where our little darling’s brains are washed. Each “cleaned” worker, like the ants on my patio, would be trained to fill a niche in a society out of step with the world around them, never questioning those in power. If the State Board of Education members are forced to support their party’s platform, we may already be on that path.

Only a few ants are left on my patio. Most stay occupied clearing dead ants from their den. I don’t know whether the queen is dead or hard at work spewing out a new population of workers. I wish I had been able to visit with the ants and find a way that both species could benefit by sharing the patio. But we couldn’t communicate and most ants died.

If the State Board of Education becomes a partisan body, and Utah remains a one party state, our state emblem should be an ant hill rather than a beehive. Future Utahns could become more like ants than contributing members of the United States of America.

Thad Box is an opinion columnist and Logan resident. He can be reached by email at thadbox@comcast.net.


Read Herald Journal article here.

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