Attila the Pun
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Off the deep end

If anymore proof was required that Michael Gawenda is completely unfit to be the American correspondent for a supposedly serious newspaper, his latest article should do the trick.

There is no need to feel bad about this, but Americans love Australia, though they know next to nothing about the place.

Awesome start Mike - an implicit suggestion that we should feel bad about Americans loving Australia, backed up by a complete generalisation that all Americans are completely ignorant about the place.

Even Americans who have visited Australia and just love the time they had there know virtually nothing about the place, which just goes to show that travel confirms rather than shatters stereotypes.

Travel around America obviously hasn't shattered his stereotypes about Americans - that they are all ignorant dumbasses. I would never suggest than an overseas correspondent should have an unabashed love for a country and its people, but why send someone with such ingrained prejudices?

When Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was in Washington recently, he delivered the annual Anzac lecture at a think tank. The audience was made up mainly of conservative think-tank types, Bush Administration officials and several American journalists who had come, it seemed, for a free lunch.

The attendance list at that lecture is not readily available, but are we supposed to take Gawenda's word for it that the entire audience was full of think tank types, Republican flacks and scabby journalists? I am not sure where Ambassador Ghazzati of Malaysia fits into those categories, but I am sure that Gawenda wouldn't generalise too broadly about the audience.

They all loved Downer's speech, and why wouldn't they? As one Bush Administration official said, he could think of no other country's foreign minister who would make such a speech, which was essentially a love letter to the United States.

Too bad for Michael - the text of the speech *is* readily available online, which allows us to see that his sneer about a "love letter" is pretty much a lie. I won't quote large extracts, but check out the subheadings (with my summaries):

The spirit of ANZAC - Talks about Gallipoli

Foundation of the alliance - Talks about Australia and America's record of fighting together in all major conflicts, the first co-engagement occuring under the leadership of the legendary Australian General - Sir John Monash

Operation Anaconda - Recounts the rescue of American forces by Australian special forces

Today’s alliance in Asia - ANZUZ, tsunami, Iraq

Building on our alliance - the US alliance is valuable to Australia

Conclusion - thanks the Australian ambassador, Michael Thawley, for his service.

So it is pretty obvious that the speech was closer to a love letter to Australia than the US. Of course you don't have to take my word for it - you can read the speech and decide for yourself, something Gawenda would probably rather you didn't do.

Clouds of nostalgia filled the room as the Americans recalled the time, in their age of innocence, when John Wayne and Gary Cooper vanquished the bad guys and then quietly rode off into the sunset.

Again, no photos are available to verify these clouds, but I am happy to call bullshit on that one. Oh, but points for the meaningless cowboy reference though - good to see that the Age style guide is the same as the SMH.

It is possible that even an Australian breast or two swelled a little with pride as Downer explained how we had "punched above our weight" in all the wars in which we had been involved.

Hmm, quotation marks suggest a quote. Lets go to the transcript:

We have fought together since then in every other major conflict: the Second World War; Korea; Vietnam; the first Gulf War; Afghanistan; and now Iraq.

I think that’s a proud record – a record of shared sacrifice in defence of the values both our countries hold dear.

It’s a record of standing up for the right of Australians and Americans – and of other peoples – to go about their own lives without fear.

It’s about their right to elect the government of their choice – and to throw them out if they do a bad job.

It’s about their right to worship freely, or not worship at all.

I challenge anybody to find a quote, even a horribly paraphrased one, which in anyway resembles Gawenda's.

Thing is though, a love based on what amounts to bulldust is infatuation, and we all know how quickly infatuation can be followed by disappointment and resentment.

Take shared values. When Americans talk shared values they mean Australians are like Americans, only nicer, more innocent. Not true. We may share a commitment to liberal democracy, but the fact is there are many fundamental values that we do not share.

Considering your record Michael, I am going to have to ask for proof before I believe any assertion by you about what Americans mean in any context. Just because we don't share every value does not mean that any American empathy felt with Australia is based on "bulldust".

The majority of Americans are regular church-goers and, according to polls, more than 80 per cent of Americans are believers. The majority of Americans believe in creationism rather than evolution. And many Americans believe that God loves America best of all.

You don't share those values Michael (and incidentally, neither do I), but you may find that quite a few people in Australia do. Lets ask the Australian Bureau of Statistics shall we?

In response to the 2001 Census of Population and Housing question, Australians' stated religious affiliations were: 27% Catholic, 21% Anglican, 21% other Christian denominations and 5% non-Christian religions.

Hmm, I make that 69% who believe in a Christian God. Looks like a shared value to me.

And the great American dream is not an egalitarian one: it is that every American, no matter how humble their origins, can aspire to be president, and if not president, then at least wealthy and successful.

Everybody has the opportunity, no matter how poor they are, or what race or gender they are, to be wealthy and sucessful? Sounds like the egalitarian dream to me.

Americans in the main do not resent or excoriate the wealthy: they hope that one day they, or at least their children, will join the ranks of the rich. There is no tall-poppy syndrome in America. Americans love rags-to-riches stories. They love success.

Is he suggesting that Australia doesn't share these values? That we excoriate the rich, we don't hope our children will become rich, we hate rags to riches stories and we hate success? Does he even read what he writes?

They don't even seem to mind that the super-wealthy, the top 0.1 per cent of the population, people who earn more than $10 million a year, are the major winners from the Bush Administration tax cuts.

As defined how? That they will receive the largest tax cut? Memo to Michael - if you cut a percentage tax rate, then the people earning more money will receive a larger tax cut.

It doesn't seem to matter that the gap between rich and poor in America is growing and becoming entrenched, that the chances of those born poor becoming even moderately wealthy are slim, that the American dream more and more is a fantasy.

Again Micheal, without any sort of support for that contention, we are going to have to wash those claims down with a Murray River's worth of salt.

The dream lives in the culture and in the American psyche and in the hearts of the millions of illegal migrants who have crossed the border from Mexico into America - "the Golden Land" as the Jewish immigrants of the early 20th century called it - with nothing but the clothes they are wearing.

Aah, smarty pants Micheal knows that this dream is just a fantasy, but these ignorant migrants just haven't caught on yet.

This is no different from Australian egalitarianism, which Prime Minister John Howard says is a defining feature of Australia's national character, even as Australia grows ever more unequal. Clearly, it takes more than reality to destroy national myths and dreams.

Egalitarianism does not mean that we are all exactly the same - living in the same houses, driving the same cars and earning the same amount of money. It means that we all have the same rights and opportunites, irrespective of our race, gender and economic circumstances. What we do with those opportunities is a whole different story. The fact that America is more willing to praise those that make the best of their lot is something to be admired, not sneered at.

Of course, the Australia Americans love, the Australia of vast empty spaces still to be settled and conquered, fabulous beaches, perennial sunshine, gorgeous women, incredibly friendly, uncomplicated people and unlimited opportunity, doesn't exist.

Again - is he suggesting that Australia does not have vast empty spaces, fabulous beaches, sunshine, gorgeous women and friendly people? I don't know which part of Australia he has been hanging out in, but that certainly doesn't sound like an Australia I would recognise.

Where does that leave the great American love of Australia? One thing is true: on any reckoning, we have been good and faithful allies, even if most Americans would be surprised to learn that for a significant number of Australians that is no cause for celebration.

Aaah - another claim regarding the views of a "significant" number of Australians, again without any kind of support. Actually Michael, the fact that we have been faithful allies with one of the world's greatest democracies, a country that helped liberate Europe, defended Australia, defeated the Taliban and removed Saddam, may be a cause of quite pride for a surprising (to Gawenda at least) number of Aussies.

I am appalled at the amount of findings made with a simple “I hate Australia” blog or google search.

And 90% of the submitters are so out of context to their knowledge of Australia that it is edging on uneducated propaganda. Most of them comment of ‘Crocodile Dundee’ and “the crocodile hunter’ which as any Australian or somebody that is close to Australians will know is not even a representation of Modern Australia. Whenever our accent is represented on overseas shows we seem to have the accent now the same as we did 50 odd years ago. I hate people trying to copy our accent. So many bloggers speak of the hate for our accent but their view would be taken from their home countries view of the accent and not what it really is.

I have not read the whole article of that you speak of but with your posts I don’t think I need or care to. He seems to be like many journalists and makes up his own statistics and thinks he knows what goes through the minds of Australians each day. No overseas nation can. Same as we cannot know the mindset of any other nation/culture without being a part of it for some time which I severely doubt this Journalist has spent much or anytime in Australia. A short 2 week holiday is not good enough to base any thoughts on the mindset of a whole nation. Especially if his words written in his article are like the words that come from his mouth. Not many people of the world will show him respect, thus giving him the interpretation that the whole nations Personalities are alike the same ones given to him by the people that he has angered.

Ah well, some will never learn. Not much we can do about it, unfortunately.

As much hatred I hear directed towards us I love Australia. We are defiantly the Free Country. (Even if it may be just a little ‘Too Free’). Each and every country needs to stop with the comparison of nations. No good meets you at the end. I think (Without Racism insinuated) that America loves to compare itself to other nations just for that fuzzy feeling of being on top with the knowledge that others countries look up to them. That’s just human nature though and they do have a lot to be proud of. Human nature likes to feel powerful and wanted. All Life on this planet on different levels is the same.

Michael Gawenda should realize that we specifically hold the Annual ‘The spirit of ANZAC’ to commemorate the deaths of heroic soldiers that died fearlessly for our country. Not to go there and get on our knees and kiss the shoes of the US military. Yes we are grateful for their help, but it is not like we have never saved them.
We are there to commemorate our allied connections with the US. BUT mainly we are there to REMEMBER.

The main things that we do have in common with the U.S are our love for freedom and the ability to have it. Also the fact that we are fighting for a common cause and we are not nations of instantly recognized cultures but of many cultures together that built the nation to where it is today.

I could keep going but I think my point is made
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