I am sick and tired of our so-called "representatives" in Washington being influenced by powerful special-interest groups on crucial federal issues. As you have no doubt gathered, I am referring to the current effort to name an Official National Insect.
This effort, which I am not making up, was alertly brought to my attention by Rick Guldan, who's on the staff of U.S. Rep. James Hansen of Utah, at least until this column gets published. Rick sent me a letter that was mailed to congresspersons by the Entomological Society of America. (An "entomologist" is defined by Webster's as "a person who studies entomology.") The letter urges Rep. Hansen to support House Joint Resolution 411, which would "designate the monarch butterfly as our national insect." The letter gives a number of reasons, including that "the durability of this insect and its travels into the unknown emulate the rugged pioneer spirit and freedom upon which this nation was settled."The letter is accompanied by a glossy political-campaign-style brochure with color photographs showing the monarch butterfly at work, at play, relaxing with its family, etc. There's also a list titled "Organizations Supporting the Monarch Butterfly," including the Friends of the Monarchs, the National Pest Control Association, the Southern Maryland Rock and Mineral Club and the Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission.
Needless to say, I am strongly in favor of having an official national insect. If history teaches us one lesson, it is that a nation that has no national insect is a nation that probably also does not celebrate Soybean Awareness Month. I also have no problem with the monarch butterfly per se. ("Per se" is Greek for "unless it lays eggs in my salad.") Butterflies are nice to have around, whereas with a lot of other insects, if they get anywhere near you, your immediate reaction, as an ecologically aware human being, is to whomp them with a hard-cover work of fiction at least the size of "Moby Dick."
But what bothers me is the way the Entomological Society is trying to slide this thing through the Congress without considering the views of the average citizen who does not have the clout or social standing to belong to powerful elite "insider" organizations such as the Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission. Before Congress makes a decision of this magnitude, we, the public, should get a chance to vote on the national insect. We might feel that, in these times of world tension, we don't want to be represented by some cute little flitting critter. We might want something that commands respect, especially in light of the fact that the Soviet Union recently selected as ITS national insect the Chernobyl Glowing Beetle, which grows to a length of 17 feet and can mate in midair with military aircraft.
Fortunately, we Americans have some pretty darned impressive insects ourselves. In South Florida, for example, we have industrial cockroaches that have to be equipped with loud warning beepers so you can get out of their way when they back up. Or we could pick a fierce warlike insect such as the fire ant, although this could create problems during the official White House National Insect Naming Ceremony ("WASHINGTON - In a surprise development yesterday that political observers believe could affect the 1992 election campaign, President Bush was eaten.")
Other strong possible candidates for National Insect include: the gnat, the imported Japanese beetle, the chigger, the praying mantis, Jiminy Cricket, the laughing mantis, the lobster, the dead bugs in your light fixture, the skeet-shooting mantis and Sen. Jesse Helms. I could go on, but my purpose here is not to name all the possibilities; my purpose is to create strife and controversy for no good reason.
And you can help. I recently acquired a highly trained, well-staffed, modern Research Department. Her name is Judi Smith, and she is severely underworked because I never need anything researched other than the question of what is the frozen-yogurt Flavor of the Day at the cafeteria.
So I'm asking you to write your preference for National Insect on a POSTAL CARD. (If you send a letter, the Research Department has been instructed to laugh in the diabolical manner of Jack Nicholson as The Joker and throw it away unopened.) Send your card to: National Insect Survey, c/o Judi Smith, The Miami Herald Tropic Magazine, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.
Judi will read all the entries and gradually go insane. Then I'll let you know which insect is preferred by you, The People, and we can start putting serious pressure on the Congress. If all goes well, this could wind up costing the taxpayers millions of dollars.
In closing, let me stress one thing, because I don't want to get a lot of irate condescending mail from insect experts correcting me on my facts: I am well aware that Sen. Helms is, technically, a member of the arachnid family.