Foxes and ker­erū

Things have taken a vulpine turn in the US cap­i­tal, and Rus­sia has noth­ing to do with it.

New Zealand Listener - - BACK TO BLACK - JOANNE BLACK IN WASH­ING­TON DC

There is a whiff of de­cay around Wash­ing­ton DC, al­though whether it is rot­ting jack o’ lanterns or pol­i­tics that is more pun­gent is a moot point. At our place, there was a cross­over mo­ment when it oc­curred to me as I carted our carved pump­kin out to the kerb for ­col­lec­tion that it bore a re­sem­blance to Paul Manafort, who for a time was ­man­ager of Don­ald’s Trump ­pres­i­den­tial ­elec­tion cam­paign.

It wore a look of un­pleas­ant sur­prise, prob­a­bly not un­like the ex­pres­sion Manafort would have had when told he was go­ing to be in­dicted for money laun­der­ing and other crimes. Opinion col­umns are sug­gest­ing that those prob­ing whether there was col­lu­sion be­tween Trump’s cam­paign and the ­Rus­sian Gov­ern­ment to un­der­mine ­Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial con­tender Hil­lary Clin­ton are hop­ing that Manafort will co-op­er­ate in re­turn for a deal in re­la­tion to the charges he faces. He has pleaded not guilty.

The other con­tender for the ­bean­spiller role is Ge­orge ­Pa­padopou­los, a for­mer for­eign af­fairs ad­viser to the cam­paign who has pleaded guilty to ly­ing to the FBI about when he met a con­tact who had Krem­lin con­nec­tions. None of the of­fences is in it­self a smok­ing gun or proof that a smok­ing gun will be un­earthed soon, or ever. Their great­est dam­age may be con­fir­ma­tion of the type of com­pany that Trump chose to keep.

But the Democrats’ link to the fund­ing of the in­fa­mous “dirty dossier” on what Trump got up to in Moscow shows that they were not clean, ei­ther. Amer­i­cans must be de­spair­ing. They can throw out their pump­kins and for­get about Hal­loween un­til next year, but there is no such respite from pol­i­tics where peo­ple fear that spooky fig­ures con­tinue to haunt the scene.

Walk­ing in my neigh­bour­hood early last Satur­day, I saw a fox. I have never seen one be­fore. It trot­ted up the road ahead of me, look­ing back oc­ca­sion­ally, then scam­pered off be­tween a cou­ple of houses. It looked healthy and preda­tory.

I was on my way to the lo­cal high school to help su­per­vise a mock exam. I’d ­vol­un­teered be­cause plead­ing emails kept com­ing and I fig­ured that no one had to un­der­stand my ac­cent for me to say “shhh” oc­ca­sion­ally.

I ar­rived at the school in great ex­cite­ment and said to the first par­ent I saw, “I’ve just seen a fox!”

She looked at me, wait­ing, I think, for a punch line, such as “… up a tree” or “rid­ing a bi­cy­cle”. But it had not done any­thing re­mark­able.

“It was red, with a bushy tail and looked like a … fox,” I said, lamely. She nod­ded, and said, “They do look like foxes.”

I moved off, but walk­ing up and down the rows of desks, I kept ­think­ing about it. My neigh­bour­hood is sub­ur­ban but full of big, old trees and is near some large parks. Squir­rels and chip­munks are par­tic­u­larly ac­tive in our back­yard now as the days get colder and shorter.

There are robins and wood­peck­ers, rab­bits, deer and ground­hogs and, it turns out, foxes. I think they are all na­tive to North Amer­ica.

In New Zealand, our ­neigh­bour­hoods should be full of na­tive birds, but ­usu­ally are not. It is odd how some­times you have to leave home to see how things re­ally are.

I hope the new ­Gov­ern­ment, and all

New Zealan­ders, con­tinue the push to make the ­coun­try pest-free. Per­haps it is fan­ci­ful, but a pair of ker­erū in my back­yard in Welling­ton would be as ex­cit­ing as a fox in my street in Wash­ing­ton.

I ar­rived at the school in great ex­cite­ment and said to the first par­ent I saw, “I’ve just seen a fox!”

“We sue at dawn.”

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