human behavior

The pleasure of centrality

Posted in Australian Culture & Politics, Foreign Impressions, The Expatriate Life by humanb on December 14, 2006

The last thing I want to be is reflexively partisan, for the simple reason that I have never met a single individual with whom I agreed, on all or even most of the important issues. That said, how could I possibly agree on most of the important issues, with a moving, changing, political party that responds to changing issues over the course of decades? I am a life-long American Democrat, but I certainly would not have been one in the 1860s. Sufficed to say, political parties change, and the issues that matter for one generation may not be the issues that matter for the next.

Still, I have consistently voted Democrat because the most important issues that matter to me have in my view, and over my lifetime, been better addressed by the Democrats. But it has taken my growing older and in knowledge and reason, to be less partisan, and to rid myself of many of my Semmelweis reflexes to Republican positions. And in moments of great weakness and emotionality, I am still quick to regard Republicans as self-interested, xenophobic, homophobic, morally arrogant, and hypocritical. I am sorry for those moments. Which is why I find it delightful being a US Democrat in Australia. The Australian Labor Party is not the US Democratic Party. The issues consistently dominating US politics may not have so strong a place here, and I have no history of mental and emotional associations with the people or platforms of the major Australian parties.

So I delight in being able to read and listen to the words of politicians on both sides, and form more or less objective opinions on the merits of their positions. I will make many a lefty cringe at the words to come, but I have enjoyed reading Tony Abbott’s articles in the newspapers, including his most recent.

I was especially impressed with the following expression of honesty and even empathy on Abbott’s part:

Like the Prime Minister, I would find the burka confronting. Even so, I wonder who faces the greater cultural shock: Australians who notice a few women wearing headscarves, or migrants from Muslim countries adjusting to almost complete sexual freedom, gender equality, cultural diversity and commercial laissez faire? It’s hardly surprising that some respond by associating with their fellow Muslims and defining themselves by their differences from other Australians.

I wish more US politicians wrote articles for mass public consumption in the major newspapers. I believe Abbott to be a sincere, contemplative, and patriotic Australian – despite being a monarchist (that, I just don’t get). I do not agree with many most of his positions, but I respect them, because I believe they are honestly formed with thoughtful consideration and courage. There are many US politicians who whisper their views in the ears of those who share them, but sanitize them for those who don’t. Abbott lets us all know where he stands.

Or maybe I just need to live here a bit longer.

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2 Responses

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  1. Big JW said, on December 15, 2006 at 9:58 am

    As a card-carrying member of the ALP, I am not a political supporter of Tony Abbott. Not even close.

    But I think his example clearly gives the lie to those who say that politicians are all a bunch of phoneys who will say anything to get ahead. Abbott clearly has a particular vision of Australia (albeit one I largely disagree with) and sees politics and public service as a way of seeing that vision achieved. I think that is worthy of respect.

    I think he also made a great point in his article about the Cronulla demonstrators:

    “It’s important to remember that in these times, unlike the convict era, every newcomer has, in effect, voted for Australia. For us, being Australian is an accident of birth or parentage. For them, being Australian is an act of conscious choice. That’s why the placards displayed at Cronulla last Christmas, “We grew here, you flew here”, suggesting that only the native born could be fair-dinkum Aussies, were so wrong-headed.”

    Great point, very well put.

  2. Club Troppo » Friday’s Missing Link said, on December 15, 2006 at 2:38 pm

    […] The pleasure of centrality – “Human Behaviour” – the thoughts of an American centrist who clearly hasn’t been in Australia very long: … I wish more US politicians wrote articles for mass public consumption in the major newspapers. I believe Abbott to be a sincere, contemplative, and patriotic Australian – despite being a monarchist (that, I just don’t get). I do not agree with many most of his positions, but I respect them, because I believe they are honestly formed with thoughtful consideration and courage.  … […]


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