}

Saturday, June 10, 2017

15 Years a NZ citizen

Fifteen years ago today, June 10, 2002, I became a citizen of New Zealand. Life has mostly just ticked along since that day, as it tends to do, in very ordinary ways. In fact, this anniversary has been so behind-the-scenes all these years that I don’t remember it without prompting. This year? It seems a bit more important than previous years.

I became a New Zealand citizen, as I said the only time I talked in depth about this, back in 2014, because, basically, the country had taken a chance on me in 1995, and I felt I owed it to the country to make a commitment in return. It really wasn’t any more complicated than that. Besides, by then New Zealand was clearly home.

In 2002, George W. Bush was nearing the midpoint of his first term. I opposed Bush (and never voted for him), and I was deeply concerned about what his regime would do to the USA, but that was pretty much the extent of it. After all, in the years between when I took part in my first presidential campaign at age 17, the person I backed had won only twice out of seven elections. So, I was used to being opposed to whoever the president was.

In 2002, Helen Clark was in her first term as Prime Minister, and New Zealand voters were heading to the polls in just under seven weeks. They would hand the National Party and its leader, Bill English, their worst-ever defeat—only 21% of the vote—thereby giving Helen Clark and Labour their second term in government.

Things are a bit different 15 years later.

Obviously I never supported the guy who became the titular US president in January this year, but this time it’s not just about opposing him: Unlike any other time in my life, I have very grave concerns about what will/could happen to my native land if that man remains in office—and other, equally serious concerns about the man who would replace him if Don is forced out or resigns. For the first time in my life, I’m profoundly grateful that I have a second passport.

New Zealand voters are going to the polls on Saturday, September 23, and this time Bill English is Prime Minister, following the sudden, surprise resignation of John Key late last year. At the moment, English and National are polling well enough to win the election and a fourth term in government—though the election is a very long time from now by New Zealand standards, and things could change completely.

Other things have changed, too. Australia has changed the way it treats New Zealand citizens living in their country, so the benefits of being a NZ citizen living in Australia that I obtained when I became a citizen are now nearly all gone. Not that it matters for me personally, but it’s a major change nevertheless.

There’s one more difference between now and then: In 2002, my blog was more than four years away, and my podcast was the better part of five. I haven’t given up on either, despite lately sometimes feeling that I should, and in my head I keep planning on ways to do more.

The reality is that, overall, things are far less hopeful than they were 15 years ago, for both the countries of which I’m a citizen*. I’m not sure there are enough Republicans in the US Congress to join Democrats to do what needs to be done to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, as they’ve all sworn to do. I’m also not sure that New Zealand voters have the desire to turn away from the tired and complacent National Party government to embrace forward-looking change.

However, “less hopeful” is absolutely NOT the same thing as hopeless. In fact, hope is the thing that often matters most of all.

Looking at the world as it is today, and comparing it to the one 15 years ago, it would be easy to be despondent or resigned or fatalistic. That’s not me. No matter how bad things may seem most days now, I choose to believe that they can get better, that they will get better, despite everything.

Hope is a powerful force: It’s what brought me to this country in the first place, and it’s what makes me continue to believe—no matter what—that the future will be better, even if there are a few bumps in that road along the way that make progress seem unlikely. Having hope is a sort of armour against all the bad. In my opinion, hope is not optional.

Today, just like on June 10, 2002, I’m still filled with hope about the future. And, I hope that’s proven to be justified.

*I am what’s called a “dual national”, a citizen of both the USA and of New Zealand.

In the photo at the top of this post, George Wood, who at the time was the Mayor of the former North Shore City, shakes my hand to officially congratulate me on becoming a new New Zealand citizen. Waiting nearby was Diane Hale, who at the time was Deputy Mayor. I originally published the photo in the post in 2014 that I mentioned in this post.

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