Dangerous Australia: 12 Animals Out to Kill Me

There’s always a sequence during “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” where they show clips of the rest of the world ringing in the new year. When they showed the fireworks over Sydney Harbour, my father said, “Oh, that’s Australia. I’d never go there. They have the world’s deadliest animals.” My mother and sister burst into laughter. Continue reading

Immigration at Home and Abroad

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Anti-immigration has a long history in the United States. Even our great Founding Fathers were, at times, hostile to immigrants. Benjamin Franklin was hostile to Germans in colonial Pennsylvania. President John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798 which prevented French and Irish immigrants from gaining full political rights. There’s probably not a single group that hasn’t been at the center of anti-immigration or racist policies at some point in our history. Catholics, Germans, Irish, French, Italians, Chinese, and most recently Latinos have all been the targets of xenophobia. Yet who could imagine an America without these people?

We’re gearing up for elections. Immigration is a hot topic. The United States doesn’t have an official language though about 80% of the population speaks English. Spanish makes up about 10% while Indo-European, Asian, and Pacific island languages fill in the rest. My state, Florida, is an important election state. It also happens to be home to millions of immigrants and blacks. Only about 60% of Florida’s population is non-Hispanic white. The Florida Constitution provides that English is the official language of the state, but it’s very easy to find plenty of people – plenty of American citizens – that don’t speak English. Case in point: my mother. And my father’s aunt who became an American citizen in her late 80s, may she rest in peace.

In last night’s Republican debate, it became clear that although the GOP candidates have no problem filming campaign commercials and distributing fliers in Spanish, they believe English should the nation’s official language, and would limit voter participation for American citizens over language.

“I would have ballots in English, and I think you could have programs where virtually everybody would be able to read the ballots,” Newt Gingrich said. His rivals agreed. There was no further elucidation on what such programs would look like. Currently, ballots in my county are in English, Spanish, and Creole.

Australia has its own issues with immigration and refugees. Just as the country gets ready to celebrate Australia Day, Tony Abbott, the leader of the Liberal Party (and I’m not sure “liberal” in Australia means the same thing it does here) is coming under fire for recent comments he made about sending back all asylum-seeker boats.

But just as there is hope for America, there is hope for Australia. Associate Professor Charles Teo has given a beautiful Australia Day address that taps into the essence of Australia’s, and in some ways, America’s national spirit.

Spending 9 years in the USA was an enlightening experience. Before I went to America I had an unresolved internal conflict on the issue of immigration. My parents were immigrants, my Godparents were immigrants and many of their friends were immigrants. As a child growing up amongst immigrants and die-hard, true-blue Aussies in blue-collar Picnic Point, I feel I am somewhat qualified to offer comment on the issue of refugees. I was proud that Chinese never featured in the tabloids or the evening news. I wanted it to stay that way and I thought that limiting the number of Chinese entering the country would ensure the bad ones would be excluded. I felt Australia was such a great place to live, in no small part as a result of its isolation, not despite it. We appeared to be immune from World Wars, border conflicts and dwindling natural resources. Why would you ruin this blissful isolation by allowing “queue jumpers”, potential criminals, into our Utopia? My time in the USA made me reflect on how a country that was not that much older or bigger than ours had achieved such a standing on the world stage. In general, Americans were not more intelligent, diligent or talented than Australians. They have natural resources, so do we. Their pioneers did it tough, so did ours. They had a national pride, so do we. Speak to most Americans and they will be the first to concede the dependence of their economy on the hard-working and fiercely loyal Mexicans. Speak to almost any taxi driver anywhere in the 50 states and you will be inspired by a story of tragedy and conflict followed by hope and opportunity and concluded by a statement of national pride…in America NOT their country of birth. I don’t know for sure, and I don’t think anyone knows for sure, but, having lived in the USA for 10 years, I would be hopeful that our country would benefit from immigration of peoples from countries of conflict, or those subjected to political persecution, who are simply seeking refuge from violence and a better life for their children. I believe Australia has a moral and social obligation to demonstrate a higher level of kindness to and acceptance of refugees. I don’t know how this may be achieved but I certainly know that both sides of the political fence are floundering. I would humbly suggest that a bi-partisan approach would be one step closer to a solution and we need it now!

I invite you to read Dr. Teo’s entire Australia Day address.

Les Miserables

WLRN, our local public television station, is showing an anniversary concert of “Les Miserables”, which is my favourite musical and novel.

If you’re unfamiliar with “Les Miserables”, it’s complex and contains several plots, but the main thread is the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption. It explores many themes such as the nature of law and grace, moral philosophy, religion, justice, and love set in a tumultuous France during the early nineteenth century. It is tragic and beautiful, a novel that moves me deeply. It’s a great literary achievement. My parents did brilliantly in naming me after one of its characters.

I equally love the musical adaption of the novel. It’s impossible to recreate every scene, but the musical really captures the spirit of the novel. “Les Miserables” is definitely a piece of art I want to share with Theo and it looks like I may get the chance. I’ve read on a few  Broadway forums that the show may be returning to Australia this year.

There have been a number of film adaptations of “Les Miserables” and I’ve never liked any of the ones I’ve seen, but that could change soon. Last October, it was posted on Hugh Jackman’s Google+ that he is set to star in a movie adaptation of the musical. That could be promising. Jackman has said he auditioned hard for this project and he is a great choice to play Valjean. Russell Crowe will play Javert, which I think is an excellent choice as well. Eddie Redmayne is a strong choice for Marius, a nice change from the weak and whiny Mariuses most movies offer. I’m less confident about Anne Hathaway playing Fantine, but I generally like her so we shall see. The casting choices for Cosette and Eponine haven’t been officially announced though several names, including Amanda Seyfried, Taylor Swift, and Lea Michele, have been tossed around. I think Seyfried would make a wonderful Cosette.

My Mom Goes Online

My mom online.

My mom online.

My mom is awesome.

My mom turns 65 next month. She doesn’t speak English, doesn’t know how to drive a car, or operate a camera properly. She brings me the telephone to delete the numbers from the caller ID. She loves her big TV and playing music DVDs very loudly over it, but that’s the extent of her tech knowledge. Well, it was until a purchased a laptop a few months ago.

I bought a laptop because I wanted to be mobile, but I also got it because I need her to get online. Phone calls abroad are expensive and the internet will be a great way for us to communicate and share photos. She had expressed interest. Many of her favourite television shows, magazines, and celebrities have a web presence, and she was curious about what was out there. She often asked me to look things up for her. I think she realized she was missing out on something.

The first time I set the laptop before her, she laughed and tried to be dismissive.

“What am I going to do with that? I don’t know anything about that stuff,” she said.

I could see right through that. I set up a user account for her as well as a Google account, and then I showed her how to turn the laptop on, log in, and open a browser. That’s about all she could handle that first day. She didn’t know what to do online or where to go. Sadly, I didn’t really either. I wasn’t familiar with the Spanish-speaking web and things that are second nature to me such as handling the mouse were new and challenging for her.

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