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Ambivalence down under

DISCUSSIONS | June 07, 2006

David Baumfield

1965 Nieman fellow; retired; formerly product manager, National Radio News, New Zealand B.C. Broadcasting Corporation

New Zealand, 1965. If there is a word to describe the view of America from this tiny country, it is ambivalence. There was, and still is, evidence on every hand that New Zealanders have just the same sort of anger and bewilderment about 9/ll as Americans do.

That real sympathy aside, there are undoubtedly some undefined and maybe undefinable anti-American feelings among some New Zealanders. Partly, it is born of resentment at the fact that the country's nuclear-free status (supported hugely in successive elections) has led to America dismantling the defence alliance which for many years, and through many conflicts, had been the cornerstone of New Zealand's ultimate security and foreign policy.

Yet, on every hand, you will find undiminished gratitude for the role the United States played in helping keep New Zealand safe from the Japanese in the Pacific War. You will find people who not only speak with warmth and respect for the U.S. Marines who were stationed here at that period, but have maintained links.

For my wife and myself, we will abide no negative opinions about Americans, from anyone. Our time in the United States, during and after our Nieman year, left us with feelings of great affection, not only for those with whom we shared the year, but for Americans at large, as a people.

I remember being shocked at seeing, for the first time, a bar-doorway marked  "Coloured entrance". But I also remember the mood, so evident elsewhere, against such things – and sang along with the thousands, "We Shall Overcome."

I would like to finish with a note of appreciation of the role that former President Clinton has played in strengthening the human dimension of the links between America and New Zealand. His visits here, and the quality of his mind and leadership have been so very welcome.

There are grounds to think that during his term President Clinton took some steps toward the re-thinking of the Anzus Pact breach. Even under the following administration, then Secretary of State Colin Powell, having acknowledged that New Zealand was no longer a military ally, went on to make a remark that many, many New Zealanders found heartening.

Asked if we still remained friends, he said, with a most engaging smile: "Very, very, very good friends!" Given that New Zealanders are at this very moment serving alongside Americans in various theatres, and have close links in the Antarctic bases, I would sum up by saying there is still a great deal of effective communication and even hopes, in the longer term, of a free-trade deal. Some prominent Republicans have indicated their support for that.

Posted by walt
02/19/2010, 05:52 AM

Dave do they use they term Seppo in NZ ?...I was in Australia and found it very wide spread. Do you think Americans in NZ have anything to worry about ? I heard things were getting a little dangerous over there.

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