Issue 3: What Americans Get Wrong About Australia

Here are a few of Richard’s sharpest comments. The boldface emphasis is mine.

Tell us what you think at nytaustralia@nytimes.com.


Allies Maybe, Twins Never


The Australia Americans think they know: Bondi. Credit Dean Lewins/European Pressphoto Agency

“Don’t underestimate the differences between your country and mine because Australians might agree with you. Definitions belong to the definer, not the defined, and Australians long ago learned it is easier to agree with the misunderstandings than fight them.

Australians are not to be believed simply because they value agreement more than disagreement, conformity more than rebellion. Their lies and stories are all about the unreality of reality. American literature, on the other hand, began as moral grammars, and is often most lauded when it fails to rise above that level of redemptive Christian tale.

“A small distinction between the U.S. and Australia that may as well be the Grand Canyon.”

Your Country, My Country


LaGuardia Airport in New York, getting a $4 billion upgrade. Credit Uli Seit for The New York Times

“When Australians visit the U.S. they see a country in decline. Australians see the bad airports, the infrastructure, the poor, the beggars. America had a hold on the population’s imagination 30 years ago that it doesn’t have anymore. More and more Australians are working in China and in Asia and if they can find peace in Asia, they’ll go for that.

“When I go to your country, I’m still always overwhelmed by the generosity of spirit. You want to do something and people give you 10 reasons why it will succeed. You come to Australia and they’ll tell you 10 reasons why it will fail.”

Australians on Edge


Police officers shielding two people of Middle Eastern descent in the Cronulla race riot of 2005. Credit Agence France-Press/Getty Images

“Australians don’t believe. Not in themselves or their country or their Constitution, such as it is, nor its history or destiny. We were a secular people from the beginning, albeit it with, when you scratch, an eerie spiritual edge.

Your politics was shaped by its break from a regal tradition, and so is marked, mirrorlike, by its origins: a veneration of the forms, people and rituals of power.

Ours was observed from the muster yard and is regarded as an amusing blood sport that will always end badly. That it is followed avidly doesn’t mean it is taken seriously.”

A Final Warning


Nauru, before it received hundreds of refugees who have been trapped in limbo there for years. Credit Torsten Blackwood/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Americans impose the innocence of the frontier. There’s a desire to see Australia as an ideal America or some ‘golden age’ America, and it’s just not. There’s darkness here.


From The Times …


Credit Golden Cosmos

A quick roundup of favorite reads this week:

★ Waleed Aly, well known to many of you perhaps from “The Project,” has been receiving regular assignments from The Times’s Opinion editors, and his analysis of Australia’s flirtation with Trumpism and migrant demonization deserves a close read.

★ The Turnbull-Netanyahu lovefest; a plane crash in Melbourne; and the war on junk food across Asia – just another week in regional news.

★ What makes someone American? The questions of identity in Hyphen-Nation, the last multimedia project I worked on before leaving New York, go beyond U.S. borders.

★ “Rudeness itself is not the calamity,” Rachel Cusk writes in a lyrical work of deep contemplation on politeness, Brexit and human nature. “It is the harbinger, not the manifestation, of evil.”

★ Is China pushing Trump to talk to North Korea? Sure looks like it.

★ Top stories among Times readers in Australia and New Zealand: A column on Maya Angelou’s theory that most women marry other people’s husbands. And of course, a slide show of photos from the Grammys (which I found messy in production, but livelier than usual).

… And We Recommend

I’ve had a bunch of conversations lately with Australians — including some readers of this newsletter — who recently moved back to Oz after years away. Jacqueline Williams, my colleague, is one of them, and in addition to asking her about what’s been most striking upon return (the weather, of course) I also slipped in this question:

What’s your favorite spot, the one you thought of when you were living outside Australia?

Her answer: “A magical little place on the south coast of NSW called Rosedale. Don’t tell anyone.”

Too late!

Tell me your favorite spot, and whatever else I should know, at nytaustralia@nytimes.com.

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