I have ants.
I like ants. They are nice enough insects. Fairly harmless. I have always been fascinated by their social structure.
I would rather not have ants in the house.
I have a dog, a cat, a kitten, and a rabbit. They are family. I chose to bring them into my house. Sometimes they make messes. Sometimes they make smells. Sometimes they do damage to my house. They cost me a lot of money to feed and care for. But- they are my family. I love them. I name them. I sleep with them and make sacrifices for them.
Not all of my animals love the other animals as much as I do.
Rosie, the rescue dog, loves Daffodil, the house rabbit. She sits and watches her through a baby gate and shows her off to all guests. Sometimes Daffodil and Rosie even exchange nose kisses through the gate. However, when I carry Daffodil beyond the gate, Rosie gets a little too excited and and licks her lips. I don't trust her love of Daffy to win out over her love of food.
Rosie is very interested in Gertie, the big cat, but Gertie wants very little to do with the loud, clumsy, and oafish dog. Gertie avoids her by hiding where Rosie can't get. If a storm comes, Gertie's fear of storms will trump her fear of Rosie, and Rosie will watch over and comfort our scaredy tiger tabby cat.
Rosie was so excited when I first brought home Agnes, the four week old kitten. We camped out in the living room on the couch for the first month so we could watch over our new baby. Rosie was a natural caretaker. Agnes, naturally, bonded with Rosie and she follows her everywhere. They nap together. Now that Agnes is bigger, Rosie sometimes resents Agnes's position as the baby and she pushes her away to demand my attention. Rosie wants all the attention.
Daffodil absolutely loves Gertie. She would follow Gertie anywhere. Unfortunately, Gertie has been going through her moody antisocial Goth adolescent phase since Rosie and Agnes moved in, so Daffy rarely sees her.
Agnes also likes Gertie, and she visits her daily. Gertie is like a grouchy older sibling whose favor she is determined to win. Agnes also hops over the baby gate and visits Daffodil a couple times a day. Agnes chases her and then wrestles her around giving her love bites. Then she rolls off and they lay across from each other making winky blinky eyes for a while. Rosie gets super jealous.
I say all this to say that my animals have relationships with each other that are not about me. Agnes is the most eager and companionable and really wants to be friends with everybody. Despite her friendliness, she is a kitten. She likes to jump out and attack and surprise us all. She jumps out from behind my laptop and grabs my fingers. She stealthily attacks my uncovered toes at night. She hides and then jumps out and grabs Rosie's neck every time she comes in from outside. Every Time. Surprise! Again! She jumps on top of Gertie who is always stunned and dumfounded that anyone would do such a thing. And especially, Agnes loves to chase and attack bugs. All kinds of bugs.
So, now, we have ants living in our house. I would like them to leave, but I don't really want to kill them. I don't want to put a lot of poisonous products in my house with myself and my animals. I was hoping Agnes would chase them off, like she usually does with bugs. But she isn't chasing them or attacking them. She has accepted them as other creatures living in our house. She treats them respectfully and politely. I saw her carefully walk around the ants to be careful not to step on them. You would have thought she said, "Excuse me". Rosie and Daffodil and Gertie have all made room for the ants.
My animals that I have chosen to live with, that I have given names and treat as family, that treat each other as family or roommates, are treating the ants like roommates.
I have been thinking about waiting it out. They will move out when the weather changes and I clean the house cleaned up. Surely. Then I looked up "ants" to check what harm they could cause. The reason I don't want ants in my house, it turns out, is because they can eat wood. I don't want them to eat the wood in my house. I have to protect my house. I am a homeowner. The more ants there are, the more they seem like a threat. They seem like pests, not living beings. The more it seems perfectly reasonable to kill them.
I can kill them naturally without harmful pesticides.
I can fill a water bottle with soap and water and when I see a line of ants, I can spray them with it. They will suffocate, and I can wipe them up and discard them. I can set out shallow dishes of soapy water and lure large groups of ants to their deaths with sugar. I can kill them with a solution of water and vinegar or lemon juice. I can use diatomaceous earth to kill them by drying out their exoskeletons.
They are just ants. I know. There are too many ants. They are pests. I should just exterminate them to protect my house and food and live inconvenience free. Except, I don't see just ants. I see a sophisticated society of little living creatures, I don't entirely understand, who have sought food and shelter and a place to build their community, and they found it inside my house and are living side by side my family.
Every day, I look at the news and social media. I read the arguments people make against the rights and humanity of people who are different from themselves. I read the arguments of dehuminization they use to validate increasing atrocities.
I am afraid of the moment I decide that those ants are just pests that I can exterminate and discard for my own comfort and privilege. I am afraid that it will make it that much easier for someone to argue that a group of people are just ants.