Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Scratching the surface

One of the new guys at the office is Steve. Helluva nice guy actually. He can dish it out but he can also take it. As probably the first live Australian he's ever met he's found himself talking with me a lot. (The fact that what I do affects his job might also have something to do with it). Whatever. When I go out for a smoke he sometimes follows for some 'secondhand smoke'. Well, he's also an ex smoker so I can understand that!

Being that he's a nice guy we don't restrict the conversation over a fag to merely work related matters. Thus, a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I'm very close to being able to apply for US Citizenship. Amazement when he learned that, even though I'm married to an American, I don't automatically get citizenship. (A common misconception I've found).

So yesterday the conversation turned on the subject of Ross Perot. Actually it was neither Steve nor myself who brought the subject up; someone else was expatiating on the subject. I said that my wife had voted for him in whichever presidential election he stood in (was it the 1996 race?). Then, throwing caution to the winds, I added that my wife had voted for President George W Bush and commented that if I'd known that at the time I'd never have married her! Just kidding!

Half a second later I realised I'd scratched the surface and found the Republican beneath. 'Well', he said, 'I don't think you should become a citizen anytime soon'. Hey, I'm already hanging from the rope so why not say that, on the scale by which US politics is measured, I'm about as far left as you can be.

At which point he said. 'You know, that's the great thing about this country. You have the freedom to say that.' Smug grin.

I couldn't let that go by without further discussion. 'Do you really imagine that this is the only place on the planet where freedom exists?'. Now he's not stupid. He can see that I am very Australian and that I have no fear of expressing my opinion (not quite true - I guard my words in certain places). So a dim idea forms that maybe, just maybe, Australians are also used to freedom. A little gentle guidance and he's now prepared to admit that perhaps such freedoms also exist in places like Britain. The rest of the world? I'm going to have to work on that one...

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