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Cookie politics

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on October 01, 2020 Published on October 01, 2020

ILLUSTRATION: MANJULA PADMANABHAN

Just as I settle down to watch the first debate of the current election season, there’s a scratching sound at the window. “What, you too?” says my visitor, the feisty young raccoon, Rockette. She points at the screen of my computer. “Why are all humans watching the same thing on TV?” she wants to know.

“It’s the debate between Joe Biden, the former vice-president and Donald Trump, the current president,” I say. We’ve never discussed politics before, so I’m not surprised when she says, “Okay, that doesn’t actually tell me ANYTHING. Two humans, talking. Ho-hum! So what?” “Well,” I begin, “one of them is the leader of the country we’re in and the other one is hoping to take his place. As leader.”

Rockette cocks her head to one side, looking at the glowing screen. “They’ll decide by snarling at each other?” I laugh. “No! In a month from now, the people of this country will get a chance to pick which man they prefer to be their leader. These debates are a way for the people to know which one is better suited to the task.” After listening for a few minutes Rockette says, “I can’t understand a word they’re saying! They sound like two blue jays screaming at each other!” She turns to look at me. “Is that the point? The loudest human wins?”

“I guess it looks that way,” I say, “but in fact they’re talking about all the things they plan to do, if they become the leader.” “Oh!” says Rockette. “Like removing humans from the woods and forests? Like banning the terrible motor cars that kill so many wild animals — like my dad, for instance?” I shift uncomfortably in my seat. “W-e-ll,” I begin, “that’s probably not at the top of their agenda but...” I glance over at her bright eyes, staring unblinkingly at me, “...I’m sure it SHOULD be.”

“Of course it should!” says Rockette, emphatically. “After all, if wild creatures could also get a chance to pick the leader of humans, that’s what WE would look for! And there’s many more of us. We’d pick the human who would close down the highways and stop using those horrible machines.” She’s watching me closely. “Bet you don’t really like that idea, do you?” she says. “Because you ride around in those machines too. So even though you’re friendly towards me, the things you do are dangerous for all other creatures everywhere!”

I take a deep breath. “Okay!” I say, “but what about cookies?” She gets my point right away. “That’s ridiculous!” she exclaims. “You can’t use the one good human invention to justify ALL the bad human inventions in the world!” I give a great sigh. “You’re right,” I say. “That was a terrible argument. We humans really are awful. What to do?”

“Choose better leaders,” says Rockette at once. “And also...” she pauses. “Also what?” I ask. She gives me a cheeky grin. “What about those cookies, eh?”

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

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Published on October 01, 2020
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