Send us your Trump-free masses
Kia Ora from New Zealand! We were told there’d be hundreds of you folks flying (or was that fleeing?) down here before your new President takes office.
To help you make up your mind, here’s the lowdown on little ol’ NZ - or Aotearoa, “the land of the long white cloud”, as the native Maori call it.
And talking of Maori, let’s being with race relations, something that’s always at the forefront of society and politics in the USA. Maori have always had a central role in New Zealand’s culture, from the name we call ourselves - Kiwis - to the famous “haka” war dance with which our sports teams, most famously our World Cup-winning rugby side, begin their games.
By the way, the names of our sports squads both bemuse and amuse American visitors to our shores. Our national rugby team are called the All Blacks, and their soccer counterparts the All Whites. And if that’s not bizarre enough for you, our basketballers are officially known as the Tall Blacks. But while souvenir NZ sports shirts might get misunderstood back in the States, the names refer solely to the colour (spelt with a ‘u’) of the players’ clothing and not to the shade of their skin.
But back to race relations: Maori have had dedicated seats in New Zealand’s parliament since the late 1860s - at much the same time, if my history is correct, that you guys were still fighting over slavery. Since then, numerous high profile Maori have been a feature of New Zealand governments, as well as within other branches of society, particularly the military.
And while many Maori are still at the wrong end of the scale for social well-being, like indigenous peoples the world over, a cultural renaissance has recently gotten under way, and the our government is now formally committed to redressing historical wrongs, most especially by returning Maori land illegally confiscated in the past. To many liberal New Zealanders, the treatment of Maori (and other Polyneisan peoples) might seem nothing to write home about; to many Americans, though, it might seem worthy of positive comment to the folks back home.
Sure, we’ve not yet had a Maori Prime Minister, but we have had two female heads of government in the last two decades. (By the way, what happened to that woman aiming to be your president?) Indeed, the political emancipation of women was also amazingly early here. New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women the vote, in 1893, almost three decades before female suffrage was granted in the US.
And we can even justifiably return to sport here: New Zealand is possibly the only country in the world where women’s sport can dominate prime-time television - when our Silver Fern netballers play their Australian rivals, the whole country settles down to cheer our women on.
What else is it important for potential American émigrés to know? Oh yes, we drive on the proper side of the road here - the left - and do our measuring and weighing with the same sensible scale used everywhere except the USA, the metric system.
Talking of scales, and in the interest of full and honest disclosure, we do get earthquakes here - the last big one, in November, measured 7.8 on the Richter scale, and a few years back our third largest city, Christchurch, was devastated by a 6.3 quake.
At the same time, while our scenery is sometimes shaky, it’s also always beautiful - you’ll have seen it already, I’m sure, in all those Hobbit movies. And while we don’t really have these fantasy folk here (just the fantastic backdrops), we also don’t have any snakes or other poisonous nasties like our Australian mates across the Tasman Sea do.
I suppose I should mention - yawn - politics. We have a multiparty proportional representative system in New Zealand. Sure it’s a mouthful, but it’s way easier to understand than your method of electing a government. What it means is that we’re not dominated by any one party. There’s a place in parliament, and a voice in policy-making, for half a dozen minor parties, including the environmentalist Greens and the Maori Party. We rely on committees and consensus down here - yes, it’s deadly dull, but it usually works out alright.
Moving swiftly on, I could also wax lyrical about more important things, like our wonderful wine and food. But you’ve probably got enough to digest already.
Think it over, and if you decide to come, “Good on ya, mate!” We’d love to see you. Or just send your new President - then he can learn how God’s Own Country is really run.