Getting the nocturnal and diurnal members of the team together for a meeting is never easy but in any case I see very little of them during this time of year. Yet at odd times during the late Spring, and as if by a mysterious prearranged signal, they gather in the garage in various stages of wakefulness. This is in a gesture of guilt about abandoning Pundita to wrestle with weighty policy matters on her own.
On these occasions I race to the grocery store to buy lemon meringue pie and raw shrimp for the gathering. This is to show I appreciate guilty gestures. The raccoon enjoys the shrimp. The crows and squirrel really don't have a pastry preference but the possum is fond of lemony sweets.
That is how we came to discuss the news about Kim Jong-il. In case you haven't heard he is toying with the idea of addressing President Bush as "His Excellency" in return for a little respect.
I note that Asian cultural sensitivities about what constitutes proper respect have become quite the issue, with Seoul turning green at the mention of John Bolton's name and literally cringing with dismay every time a member of the Bush administration calls Kim a tyrant.
It seems okay for Asians to call each other insulting names; consider China's words for Japan these days. But as Henry Kissinger suggested in a recent op-ed piece for the International Herald Tribune, Asian memories of Western imperialism seem to shade Asian perceptions of what constitutes diplomatic behavior.
"America needs to understand that a hectoring tone evokes in China memories of imperialist condescension and is not appropriate in dealing with a country that has managed 4,000 years of uninterrupted self-government. "Of course Kissinger's detractors will snort that he has a vested interest in calling for more respect. I think it's just that he spends a lot of time in China these days. He is wanted in a number of countries for questioning about various decisions while he was US Secretary of State. So China is perhaps one of the few places outside the United States that Kissinger -- Doctor Kissinger, to show proper respect -- is certain he can visit as a hero and not get served with a subpoena.
That might also explain Doctor Kissinger's generous recollection of China's history of self government.
But back to Kim Jong-il. The team knows quite a bit about him; I've shown them photographs and read them intelligence reports and news items. They don't like him.
"Why," asked the possum on one occasion, "would a chieftain force his people to eat each other?"
So they are on President Bush's side in this matter and defend his hard words about Kim and refusal to meet with him. Thus, it took Pundita some explaining to convey that the Bush administration should at least put on a show of cooperation at this delicate time.
The team did better with understanding Kim's call for more respectful language from the United States; as with all wild animals they are keenly attuned to the survival angle in attempts to preserve Face.
"There you have it," I finished. "If Bush calls Kim by a respectful name, Bush will betray his principles. If Kim does not receive more respectful language, he could refuse to return to negotiations."
I left them to ponder the impasse while I went to open a can of lychee nuts for the late arrivals, the beaver and falcon. I returned to find the team looking pleased with themselves. The squirrel hopped onto the conference table, which I've asked him several times not to do, and announced the result of deliberations.
"Chief Bush should call Chief Kim a nice name and a bad name."