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  • Two issues where Australians and Americans diverge

    • October 28, 2016
    • Neer Korn
    “I just think that, in America, why do they think that more guns will make them safer?"

    While Australians will only reluctantly agree on it, their outlook, values and culture bears much that is similar to that of their US counterparts. Many of the shows they watch, music they listen to, books they read, movies they download and brands they love, are American. But the differences are also abundant and there are two issues in particular that leave Australians simply perplexed at their trans-Pacific allies – gun laws and the phenomena that is Donald Trump.

    For a long time Australians have enjoyed poking fun at Americans. The country itself is seen as a tall-poppy, whose brashness, arrogance and sense of grandeur call for bringing down. Their overt patriotism does not sit comfortably with Australians who are far less conspicuous when expressing their own strong sense of nationalism. Americans are seen as fair game. We do so, however, with much endearment and recognise the strong commonalities our societies share. Many Australians will have visited the United States and felt they were somewhere familiar, in a culture not too dissimilar from their own.

    But on some fundamental issues Australians are left shaking their heads in bewilderment when it comes to the US and Americans. For one thing Australians cannot begin to fathom the American obsession with gun ownership. The concept of having guns in their homes seems so foreign to the overwhelming majority of people. With each frequent tragedy involving a crazed gun man or men, disenfranchised youth, and especially domestic accidents involving kids and firearms, Australians are left asking “what is wrong with you people?” They know about the second amendment but their response is “so what?” As one woman put it, “I just think that, in America, why do they think that more guns will make them safer? You know, there will be less kids accidentally shooting their mother in Wal-Mart. I just don’t understand.”

    The overwhelming majority of Australians are proud of the gun laws introduced after the Port Arthur massacre and are grateful to John Howard for having done so. As we have seen played out in parliament of late, they show no appetite for watering down these prohibitions (which is particularly telling when overall Australians feel we live in a nanny state with too many rules and regulations).

    The other issue Australians are astounded by is the Trump phenomena. What started out as a funny joke has become their number one global concern. “If he gets in, I have a feeling that he and Kim Jong are going to have a disagreement and there’s just going to be a push of the buttons and that’s it, it’s going to be all over,” is reflective of the common view.

    While we don’t particularly like our own political leaders, this is seen as a different kettle of fish. His unsuitability for Presidency seems so self-evident they cannot comprehend why so many Americans, possibly a majority, support him and want to see him win.

    On some level Australians get it. They too are tired of career politicians who spout the same spin and weasel words and seldom appear to have conviction. Support for plain speaking independent candidates is growing along with rejection of the main parties. As one man put it, “It’s also a manifestation of people being just sick to death of these, you know, career politicians on both sides just saying you know, the same things, the same rhetoric, the same tired rhetoric go over and over again and here he is, he’s not backed by Wall Street, he’s not backed by Unions.”

    The good news perhaps is that the Trump phenomena and the proliferation of household weapons, is not something Australia will see in the foreseeable future, if ever. The vast bulk of the population is far too tolerant and innately fair, dismissing overtly sexist, racist and deplorable comments as un-Australian.

    Oct

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