Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Elcid & Jess Escape the Government Shutdown

“Do they realize that they look absolutely ridiculous to the rest of the world?” asked my flatmate.  He was referring to Republicans, of course.

The news of the US government shut down has been big here in Australia.  And it’s been big news mainly because it’s ridiculous.  How can the most powerful, wealthiest country in the world just stop functioning overnight?  Looking in from the outside, it can only be viewed as absurd.  What makes matters worse is the fact that Republicans have shut down the government because they don’t want affordable healthcare for all.  While the rest of the developed world – and even many countries that many would classify as “third world” – have universal healthcare systems for their citizens, Republicans are fighting a law that doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Australians are no stranger to a government shutdown.  By “no stranger”, I mean it happened once.  And only once.  The series of events during the Australian government shutdown was much different to what America is experiencing now.  In 1975, a simple budget dispute lead to the first and only deadlock between the Australian Senate and the Australian House of Representatives (which, like in the US today, had majorities from different parties).  So, what happened?  Well, keep in mind that Australia still has the Queen as the Head of State, and she keeps the power to dissolve the government – a power that she (or really her representative in Australia) only used that one time in 1975.  So, the Queen fired the Prime Minister and then appointed a new one who quickly mustered up the votes to get a budget bill passed so that the government could get back to work.  Shortly after the bill was passed, the Queen fired the rest of Parliament.  This whole chain of events took less than four hours.  New elections were held a month later.

Can you imagine if Obama could just fire all of Congress?  That would sort of be amazing (until you think about a Republican firing all of Congress, which would be horrifying).

While the rest of the world watches and waits for the US to pull its shit together, I would like to say one quick thing to two of my best mates – Elcid and Jessica:

Congratulations on becoming Australians!

Yes, this whole blog post was supposed to be about both Elcid and Jessica becoming Australian citizens, but I’m glad I waited (procrastinated) a bit (a lot) because it ties in so nicely with the US government going to crap.  Now, whenever shit like this happens they can just quietly hide their US passports in a drawer or under their mattress and walk around flashing their Aussie passports, rolling their eyes like the rest of the country and questioning what the hell is wrong with those damn yanks (in their best Australian accents, of course).

My dear Arkansan friend Jessica and her English husband Guy became Australian citizens together in February of this year.  Their ceremony was held on a Wednesday afternoon at the Manly Council chambers near where they live.

Each municipal council runs the citizenship ceremonies for its residents, and they usually give you gifts as sort of a welcome to being an Aussie.

Plants are a common gift, as is Vegemite, and they usually put on a reception after the ceremony with the quintessential Aussie foods:  meat pies, Lamingtons, Pavlovas, Anzac biscuits, and some sparkling wine for good measure.  I decided that it wasn’t enough.  As it was on a Wednesday, a big ass celebration couldn’t ensue (but there were a few cheeky beers at the pub, of course).  So, I surprised Jess and Guy with an Aussie hamper (aka gift basket to the Americans reading this) just in case the council didn’t give lavish enough gifts.  All of the best Aussie things were in there:  Vegemite, TimTams, Iced Vovos, Milo, tea, Anzac biscuits, Lamingtons, Shapes, Freddo Frogs, Caramello Koalas, a beer from each state, and so much more.

So, Jess (and Guy too!):  Congratulations on becoming Australians!  They have a government that functions.

Fellow Floridian Elcid had his citizenship ceremony in August, but it wasn’t the grand celebration that he had hoped for.  His municipal council – Waverley Council – has a long wait to get a ceremony and so he was instead offered an abridged ceremony at the immigration office in the city.  He took it as he didn’t want to wait months more.  There were no speeches, no reception, no gifts, and he could only bring one guest (his husband, David, of course).  After so long here, to have a half-assed ceremony would be a bit of a let-down.  So, I decided to arrange a post-ceremony celebration a few weeks later.  As I had already used the gift basket idea, I had to think outside the box.  And what did I come up with?  A whole day of Aussie fun!  I took Elcid out for brunch at the Poolside Cafe at the Andrew Boy Charlton in The Domain.  Then, we walked around a bit like tourists just for fun.

We ended up at Baroque in The Rocks for macarons.  Since both Elcid and macarons have invaded Australia, I felt it appropriate to combine the two on his citizenship ceremony celebration day.

Then, it was off to the Sydney Tower for a short 3D video about Sydney and some high up views of the city.  I hadn’t been up the tower since my first day in Sydney over three and a half years ago, so I was excited to check it out.  It was Elcid’s first time.

Then, we headed back to my apartment for an Australian afternoon tea – complete with all sorts of Australian edible delights and a lovely Australian cake made by our friend, Mirri.

And with that I’ll say to Elcid:  Congratulations on becoming an Australian!  We may be stuck with Prime Minster Abbott for the next 3 years, but at least there’s healthcare and the government keeps running!  Plus, John Boehner is like 10,000 miles away at all times.  That’s a huge plus.