Bees can see ultraviolet light. Betcha didn’t know that. Their eyes — bees have five of them — process wavelengths humans can’t, meaning bees can literally see colors that people can’t imagine, detecting patterns on flowers beyond human perception.
If we were to consider the entire spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, with big loping radio waves at one end and frantic tiny gamma waves at the other, the range that people can see — visible light — is a small section. We exist in a sea of information we don’t know is there.
No shame in that. Everybody doesn’t see something. Most things. And when I step back from the American political scene — like the restful, stay-at-home vacation last week — it’s a blessed relief to focus on other concerns. I tracked the impeachment of Donald Trump out of the corner of one eye and didn’t watch a second of the proceedings.
So much buzzing. So much noise and frantic activity. Very hive like, although that’s an insult to bees, famous for their industry and courage: stout-hearted warriors “in their waxen kingdoms,” as Virgil calls them in “Georgics.”
I didn’t watch the impeachment because I already saw, in stark relief, what House Democrats were laboriously trying to establish: Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine trying to blackmail its president into announcing a sham investigation into Joe Biden and his son. That isn’t a murky mystery. The facts are right there. Trump himself admitted it.
Yet none of this is perceived by Trump supporters. Point directly at the treachery, and they stare blankly as if gazing into empty space. Or they see a mirage: Bill Clinton spinning his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, as if that’s somehow relevant. They look at Donald Trump and see a Christ-like figure. “The Chosen One,” in former Secretary of Energy Rick Perry’s terms.
That has to be a moment of clarity. When you’ve got people who turn their eyes toward Donald Trump and see a Christ-like figure, well, it’s time to consider biology and bees and other marvels of nature. Something humanity has been doing for a long time, I should point out. There are 10,000-year-old cave paintings in Spain showing bees and men gathering honey from hives. History is very long; we will not be stuck in our current dismal political moment forever. It only seems that way.
It’s a mystery to consider Trump supporters, to try to understand why they limit their range of vision. I voted for Barack Obama, twice. Yet I could easily discourse for an hour on his limitations, flaws and missteps, starting with his coolly midwifing the birth of Donald Trump when he should have been shrieking.
That ability, to see the good, bad and everything in between, is a glory of being human. Or should be. We can grasp things beyond our petty biases and daily concerns. We’ve got that over bees. They build hives but never cathedrals. Humans can evaluate opinions from all sides.
Some of us, anyway; 81 percent of evangelical Christians voted for Trump, and were I set on condemning evangelicals, I’d focus on that shameful figure. But it also means 19 percent didn’t vote for Trump. That’s a start. There was Christianity Today on Thursday, publishing a strong editorial saying Trump should be removed from office.
It didn’t seem to cause one Trump supporter to turn their head an inch away from gazing raptly at their object of veneration. The president fell ravening upon the magazine’s neck, because that is what he does, and his prominent evangelical supporters followed, not one imagining they might be next.
I see why people love Trump. They look at him and perceive something marvelous — an unfettered bully beating up people they don’t like, or imagine they wouldn’t like if they ever met one. They are tied to a troubled industry and buy the con that he’ll bring that industry back. The rest of the situation, the totality of the Trump obscenity, so clear to those not in his thrall, is invisible: Just so much ultraviolet light bouncing ineffectively off unseeing retinas.
Bees not only see ultra-violet light, but their two larger eyes can detect the direction of the wind, thanks to tiny hairs. Hairy eyes that can see things invisible to us. While flying. It really is a wonderful world, despite what’s going on in Washington right now. We must bear that in mind.