Friday, January 20, 2017

A day of no significance

Today is January 20, a date that has no particular significance for New Zealand, but one that does for the USA—tomorrow, when it arrives there. What is an American expat in New Zealand to make of all this? Ultimately, that’s down to individual choice, timezones having a lot to do with it.

The US President is sworn in at noon on January 20 following the November elections (following ratification of the 20th Amendment to the US Constitution). That falls at 6am January 21 in New Zealand, and isn't exactly a convenient time to watch the hoopla if we’re so inclined. On weekdays, it often falls when we’re getting ready for work, and when it falls on a weekend—well, many of us prefer to sleep later.

For me, of course, there’s the fact that, due to those timezones, January 20 in the USA is January 21 here, and that’s my birthday. So, that’s what I always focus on—not the events in the USA. In fact, in the 20+ years I’ve lived in New Zealand, I know for sure that I watched the inauguration in 2009 (I also know that I didn’t watch it live in 2013), thanks to this blog. So, the fact I won’t be watching the hoopla on Saturday (our time…) doesn’t actually mean anything: I usually don’t watch.

There are many people who have chosen to avoid watching, and if there was a choice to make, I wouldn’t either, on principle. The events happen whether anyone watches or not, and if we choose to ignore the events it changes nothing. But it is a small way we can stand by out principles if we so choose.

I have absolutely no problem with anyone refusing to watch, and that applies to all presidents in all years, regardless of a person’s ideology, motivation for not watching, etc. Watching or not really is a matter of individual choice, and people have to have that right without being harangued for the choice they made.

Even though people have the right to make their choices, that doesn’t mean that the choice won’t be mocked. The other side avoided President Obama’s inaugurations, and were derided for it. Now, the other side will return the favour and deride any of us who boycott Don’s show. And so it goes—always.

I decided to exploit use the hoopla tomorrow as a way to promote New Zealand wine, books, films, and music. That “tongue-firmly-in-cheek post” offered to “share” my birthday celebrations by providing distractions that people avoiding the show in DC might want to try. It was all a bit of light-hearted fun at the (mild) expense of my fellow centre-left folks, while also promoting “some of the things I love most about New Zealand”. I doubt that anyone will take me up on my specific offer, but maybe someone, some time, might look into the things I mentioned. That’d be nice.

So, I won’t be watching the hoopla tomorrow, neither live nor later on. While I have zero interest in Don or his show, and I also reject both, that’s not why I won't watch. I seldom ever watch it live, and for a very good reason: The timezones that put it at such an inconvenient time also place it on my birthday, and I want to focus on that. This year in particular fun and positive things matter a lot.

After tomorrow, there’ll be days I have to take what’s happening in my homeland seriously, but tomorrow isn’t one of those days, and it never is. It’s my birthday tomorrow, and it’s the only thing about the day that has any significance to me. You’re still welcome to join in—fun times always trump, so to speak, bad times.


Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

That's a valid worry! And one shared by a great many people.

rogerogreen said...

I'm not avoiding watching out of principle, but out of fear that I will upchuck.