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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Arthur Answers 2017, Part 7: Bonus questions

Surprise! This is a bonus post in this year’s Ask Arthur series! Yesterday I issued the last call for questions, and I got two. So, here’s an unplanned extra Ask Arthur post for this year’s series.

The first questions today comes from my friend Andy, who asked:

Alright, Arthur – I've got a question. What was your best – and worst – experience since arriving in New Zealand?

I could be glib and say the best thing was Nigel, because what could be better than finding the love of one’s life, then getting to be with them? That’s an obvious answer though, and while he was the entire reason I came to this country, Andy’s question is actually asking about New Zealand itself.

There are a lot of things I liked about New Zealand from the very beginning, and I’ve written about many of them over the years. But the best experience I had, overall, was my participation in Labour Party politics at the local level. That has nothing to do with party or ideology, but about the things that are still great about New Zealand.

What I found in my years of volunteering was that there are people who care passionately about their community and their country, and who want to make both a better place. They are people who are willing to give freely of their time and energy and talents to make that possible, and, with effort, they may even succeed. It’s an ethic that seems to have been lost in my homeland.

The other thing is that it’s very easy for an ordinary person to become friendly with politicians, local or national, and friendly enough that the politician will recognise them and they can have pleasant conversations. That’s happened to me many times over the years, and there’s just no equivalent in the USA, at least, not for national politicians. The personal and familiar—sometimes even familial—nature of New Zealand politics was a surprise to me (I actually wrote about that—in a more partisan manner—in a post about the Labour Party’s campaign launch in 2014).

So, the experience that was the best was that, and, indeed, all the community groups I participated in, not just that political one. New Zealanders are pretty awesome most of the time, but especially so when working together to make their community better.

The worst experience is much harder for me to define. Part of the reason for that is that I try hard to avoid dwelling on the negative—people or events—to focus on the positive. I don’t always succeed, of course, but because it’s what I try to do I often simply forget about negative things.

Certainly the earliest bad experiences were dealing with NZ Immigration in the days before I was a permanent resident. A lot of the time it was fine, but other times it was truly soul-destroying. Jury duty was similar for me—I absolutely hate, loathe, and despise jury duty in any country, though, so that’s not unique to New Zealand.

The trouble is, most of the things I think of are irritations or annoyances, not anything bad enough to be called “worst”. In fact, the truly worst things were all personal, having nothing to do with New Zealand (the usual sorts of things—death in the family, sickness, that sort of thing).

But that gets at what I’d consider the worst: The realities of being an expat, specifically, the personal toll that time and distance can take. For example, my good friend’s mother died, a woman who was very important in my own childhood, and I couldn’t go back to the USA for the funeral or to be a support for my friend, nor more recently when his dad died. Some of my family members were in a serious car accident, and I couldn’t go back to support them in the immediate aftermath.

That, too, has nothing to do with New Zealand as such, but it’s about the reality of living so far from my native land, as this country is. That’s not a great answer, I suppose, but at the moment it’s the only thing that comes to mind.

The next question is from Roger Green who asked:

This is a variation on a question you asked me last year. Do you think tRump has destroyed Barack Obama's legacy?

No, but he’s certainly tried to. As recently as a few months ago, I’d have said he’d utterly failed, but times have changed and I now say he’s succeeded nearly completely in hiding President Obama’s legacy, though not destroying it. Despite what the current occupant of the White House obviously thinks, he’s no pharaoh, and he can’t wipe out his predecessor's existence by chiselling his name off monuments. When the current regime is gone, saner heads will prevail and will undo all the damage the current occupant and the Republican Party have done.

However, much of what President Obama achieved will take years—maybe even decades—to restore. If the petulant brat in the White House cared about the American people just a tiny bit as much as he’s jealous of and hates President Obama, the Affordable Care Act could have been fixed and been a good way to steady things until the inevitable time arrives to move to single payer. But the current occupant’s obsession with undoing President Obama’s legacy means that real healthcare reform in the USA will now take decades, quite possibly not until after the utter defeat of the Republican Party at the state as well as federal levels, and that won’t be any time soon.

So, destroy? No. Hide? Absolutely. Because everything that the current occupant has attacked and attempted to destroy can be restored once the grown-ups are back in control and saner heads prevail.

Thanks to Andy and Roger for these questions!

At the risk of playing the same note again, the next Ask Arthur Post, which I’ll publish tomorrow, really will be the final in this year’s series.

All posts in this series are tagged “AAA-17”. All previous posts from every “Ask Arthur” series are tagged, appropriately enough, ”Ask Arthur”.

Previously:
Let the 2017 asking begin The first post in this series
Arthur Answers 2017, Part One: NZ Example
Arthur Answers 2017, Part Two: Addiction and song
Arthur Answers 2017, Part 3: Easy answers
Arthur Answers 2017, Part 4: About the regime in DC
Arthur Answers 2017, Part 5: About the nasty folks in DC
Arthur Answers 2017, Part 6: Penultimate answers

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