Africa Vignette 7: Night Drive in Zambia

Site of the new ferry crossing

We cross the Luangwa River at a hand ferry in its first night of operation. They’ve been working on it all day.

Two men sit on a wooden platform mounted on pontoons with us and the Land Cruiser aboard. They work wooden handles to slide the barge along a cable that stretches to the other side of the river, and pull us across.

The grass on the other side has grown to waist high. The Land Cruiser parts it like a ship, until we come around a corner and pull up short to admire a dramatic full moon rise. Then John, the guy in charge of the Land Cruiser’s spotlight, swings into action.

An undefined scatter of ground animals scurry around the ground, rodents that would be alarmingly big back home. Turn the spotlight up and dozens of reflected eyes stare back from a stand of impala, who must feel vulnerable, exposed from cover of darkness.

Genets and civets, which are related to one another and to mongooses, the civet more elongated, the genet like a cat with fox ears. The bush baby, or ‘night monkey’, is a tiny primate whose eyes, when caught in the light, glow like the red end of a smoking cigar.

A beehive clings to the side of a baobab. Here is a porcupine.

We’ve stayed out so long it’s cold coming back. These are extensive drives. They might run from 6:00 to 11:30 in the morning and well after dark in the evening. Long past sunset we come upon a sign that reads, “Main Gate, 15K.”

Abraham offers around blankets.

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See photos from Zambia in the Zambia Gallery at Earthphotos.com.

Africa Vignettes is a weekly series most Mondays this summer on CS&W.

Sufficient Integrity

If I say it is so, best you believe it.

CS&W is mostly about travel. Life-fulfilling, experiential, aspirational stuff, usually. Most of the time it’s about the world outside the United States, and many readers live outside this country.

There is no reason people outside the US should follow our country’s daily internal politics, but I think you should know that just now it’s a bit of a fraught moment. The other day, President Trump said this about the North Korean leader:

“He’s the head of a country, and I mean he’s the strong head,” Trump told Fox News Channel. “Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

Modest note to the president: We are not your people.

Later, this from Mr. Trump:

“I’m kidding,” he said. Admonishing the journalist, the president added, “You don’t understand sarcasm.”

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Adam Serwer writes in the Atlantic,

It is (a) flaw in the American system that it relies on the presumption that the chief executive will be a person of sufficient integrity not to abuse that tension for personal gain.”

He’s talking about the

“inherent tension in America’s constitutional system in that the attorney general, the head of the Justice Department, is also a Cabinet official answerable to the president.”

In defense of the American system, it took 200+ years to throw up our reigning rascal.

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We Americans define ourselves in many ways. Diversity is our country’s robust strength. We are conservatives, liberals, citizens, grandparents, parents, children, patriots, military veterans, immigrants, activists, protesters, bread-winners and retirees, political supporters and opponents.

But I am hard-pressed to imagine anyone who would consider himself a subject of the president in the way North Koreans are to their leader, and in the way that the American president described us “sarcastically”  to his house organ.

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Diminished respect for the rule of law and general thuggishness in this country chime with the lived experience of Europeans this 2018. To Poland (Law and Justice), Hungary (Jobbik), Austria (Freedom Party), Italy (the League), Finland (the Finns), the French Front Nationale, Germany (The AfD), Greece (Golden Dawn), England (UKIP), this summer we may add USA (Republican).

The retiring chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said his own party is acting like a “cult” in kowtowing to the president. The ruling party’s leadership though, astride the trough and damned well intent on retaining wallowing rights, won’t hear of it.

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From far away we Americans read about the rise of European nationalism as a clinical, academic thing, a phenomenon unrelated to our purported world dominion, our whole reigning former unipolar, indispensable nation thing.

You poor uncomprehending Europeans systematically mishandle your refugees, among them the ones that come via Libya, a now lawless land we were happy to lead from behind to help you destroy. Not our problem now.

We float above petty squabbles like that whole Libyan lead from behind thing. We mightily beat back the challenges of invading hordes of impoverished brown people on our southern border seeking a better life. An agency of our government called ICE, for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has been systematically and as a matter of policy separating would-be immigrant parents and children at the US/Mexican border. Many of these people are fleeing some of the most violent, lawless countries in the world.

In a country avowedly proud of the separation of church and state, here is America’s senior law enforcement officer, Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week:

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Sessions said. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”

Later, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders summed up the same idea: “It is very biblical to enforce the law.”

We are fast coming off our deteriorating and underfunded national rails. Most alarmingly, it looks like this comes with at least the tacit support of at least a large minority of Americans.

Eh.

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Weekend Reading

Good stuff to read this weekend:

The case for invading America by Scott Gilmore in MacLean’s: “Our invasion may be slowed due to the usual congestion at the border crossings, but if we time our attack mid-week, traffic on the Ambassador Bridge should be manageable.”
Watermarks by Donovan Hohn at Lapham’s Quarterly. A meditation on water.
Teddy Roosevelt on How the Blind Cult of Success Unfits Us for Democracy and Liberty by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.
The Political Path to GPS: How war and peace forged the universal map by Anthony Paletta at New Atlantis
Mexicans Drive Bus to Russia for the World Cup at El Universal

Last Friday I wrote that

“President Trump is not taking the country seriously, but rather playing it as a television show in which he is the star, with teases and cliffhangers, time-worn entertainment industry tactics to keep us tuning in,” and that “This year the United States has become a cartoon country, with either the complicity or inattention of much of its population.”

Here is an article from Monday that elaborates on that theme: Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the kayfabe.

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Birds are strange. Sometimes kind of prehistoric and scary and very unlike humans. But they are not beyond the occasional bad hair day. For one further weekend diversion, I invite you to enjoy 183 entertaining photos of our avian friends at EarthPhotos.com.

Enjoy the weekend.