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Opinion | The Cicada and the Train Wreck of 2020

In his classic story “Rip Van Winkle,” the author Washington Irving told the tale of an 18th-century American who drinks a potion and falls asleep for 20 years. Upon waking, he finds a world that has changed in shocking ways. (There’s been a revolution, for example, and the United States is now a thing.)

It’s a fantastical yarn, but the truth is that we are surrounded by millions of real-life Rips Van Winkle. As the video above shows, they just happen to be six-legged beasties who spend decades underground, gnawing on roots.

That’s right, we’re talking about periodic cicadas. This summer, for the first time in 17 years, the cohort of cicadas known as Brood IX emerged into the daylight — and a lot has changed since 2003. What would it be like to wake up to the 2020 news cycle after literally living under a rock for most of your life? Sounds stressful, even for an insect.

But what if these noisy little bugs aren’t quite as innocent as they seem? Or what if we aren’t, either?

Tala Schlossberg (@TalaSchlossberg) is a producer and animator with Opinion Video.

Andrew Blackwell (@ABlackwell) is a senior producer with Opinion Video.

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