Today, heading out on one of my periodic hoofs around the neighborhood, I found this on the sidewalk: a mob of ants clotting around an earthworm. I leaned over for a moment, considering the industry and anonymity of the army at work, wondering why We Humans can’t join forces and shoulder away — for storage, safekeeping or disposal — whatever blessed gifts or toxic burdens come our way. Donald Trump and his hateful and divisive rhetoric sprang to mind. Surely, if we all came together, we could solve that nagging problem. How about everyone who’d rather not see him as our 45th President just assemble on a square of pavement at his feet and peacefully, diligently, carry him off the sidewalk?
I considered the logistics of this as I pressed on with my afternoon constitutional. In short order I passed a black man in a skull cap, swapping quick hellos. A few minutes later, inside a pharmacy, a young woman with a South-Asian accent chit-chatted agreeably as she rang up my chocolate and greeting cards. She smiled. I smiled. Nice gal.
Down the street, I encountered two men leaving an Orthodox shtiebel, deep in conversation in some language I didn’t immediately recognize (Yiddish? Russian?). I said hi. They looked up, nodded quickly but politely, then returned to their discourse, walking lightly in heavy black suits on this far-too-muggy Sabbath.
Barely half a block down the street, I stopped and tried on a leather jacket (sleeves too long) at a yard sale, gassing a bit with the African-American family gathered out front.
On the rest of my stroll home, I passed a new Mormon church and my old Catholic church, lately transformed into a hip media company. I exchanged smiles, greetings and pleasantries with an Italian friend at an import store, a black woman who accidentally knocked into me with her Stewart’s bag — she apologized profusely, and I assured her I survived — and an old white fellow that I scared the bejesus out of when I walked up beside him and bleated out hello.
“Ahhh!,” he yelped, laughing. “You startled me!”
My turn to apologize profusely. He grinned and regained his bearing, and as he did, I thought: We are a horde of ants going about our business together, aren’t we? This rainbow bunch of people milling around my neighborhood, my country and my cosmos are living, bustling proof that no one is in it alone, that all of us share the burden and shoulder the weight of everyday life. Much of the time, from our microscopic solipsistic egotistical perspectives, we’re focused on our own tiny errands, our own tiny selves — and we only see the differences between us, the variations in skin, religion, party, perspective and language that build fear and walls. We like to think we’re all that different, but we’re not.
What would the ants think, if they could? If you could pluck one from the crowd and stick a microphone in its face, what would it say? Would it see only differences? Would it go on a bigoted rant against its neighbors? Would it claim superiority based on the length of its antennae and the sharpness of its mandibles? Would it express stubborn individualism? Small-minded parochialism? Lockstep partisanism? Would it gripe, “Dude, the other ants don’t pull their weight. They complain too much. Takers.” Would it go on social media to bully, insult, demonize (hashtag #LoserAnts)?
Okay, so I’m reading way too much into a worm. But still. If all of us are ants already, then the Trump thing is straightforward business, isn’t it? We should give it a shot. We’re all in it together. We can carry him off the sidewalk, I’m sure.