Ezy Reading: We’re Not On Bondi Beach Anymore

Evan Kanarakis

If I just click my heels together three times…

As I write this week’s column from here in Bangor, cable television’s Weather Channel tells me that it’s minus 17 degrees Celsius outside but actually ‘feels like’ minus 24 degrees. Like I need you to tell me what it feels like. It’s fucking freezing, mate. And, ‘feeling’ it or not, I was already sensing that things were getting damn cold when I pulled up the blinds in my office today to discover a two-inch thick layer of ice coating the window. It seems that after a rather slow start to the season New England has decided to give global warming a flick for the time being- this is chilly even by usual Maine standards in winter. It’s hard to believe I was sitting on Bondi Beach in Sydney not that much more than a fortnight ago and soaking up the sunburn.

But, so it goes. I had a cracking, much-needed visit home for nearly three months to catch up with friends and family but now it’s time to get back to work again.

So what did I miss while I was gone?

Most news of note from abroad reached Australia’s airwaves and newspapers while I was there, and the last three months of 2006 were certainly dominated in the United States by the ongoing conflict in Iraq. Amid continued criticism over the government’s management of America’s affairs, the Democrats took control of Congress in the November mid-term elections. It was a huge victory for the party, forcing President George Bush to acknowledge his missteps in the conflict, and led directly to Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation as Defense Secretary. The war only continued to define Bush’s Presidency as 2006 drew to a close, and Saddam Hussein’s conviction for crimes against humanity and subsequent, seemingly rushed and controversially carried-out execution on December 30 did not provide the kind of shift in momentum some might have hoped for, especially as Iraqi civilian casualties continued to rise, and the American death toll in Iraq reached 3000 at the year’s end.

If I have noticed one significant change upon my return, it has been that this recent cool weather seems matched by an openly cooler position among some Americans on the state of their nation in the world today –and of their President- than I’d noticed before. In the past I found few were willing to engage in political discussion with someone they viewed as an ‘outsider’, regardless of the Australian government’s official position as a keen member of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’, and even among some liberal-minded folks I’d met, there still seemed to be an odd discomfort exhibited in openly criticising their leader and his policies. If they are increasingly angry and cynical or newly emboldened by the mid-term results -I’m not sure- I’ve certainly noticed how many more, wholly unprompted conversations I’ve had with locals now expressing their extreme dissatisfaction with the current administration, along with an acute sense of betrayal, regardless of whether they’d voted Republican or Democrat in the past.

It is as if some now feel there was a fundamental breach of ‘honesty’ in politics that took place here; something that attempted, and in many ways succeeded in deceiving an entire nation, the costs of which may now last beyond the current generation and the task of resolving the war itself in the short term.

Whether in Australia anymore or not, whether American or not, these are issues and a crisis whose resolution sooner than later ultimately affects us all, such is the nature of the situation at hand. Three months at the close of 2006 saw matters only sour further. May the first three months of 2007 serve well to resolve some of our growing discontent and disillusionment and warm up our spirits just a little.

Ezy Reading is out every week.