Today is the 4th of July. It’s internationally recognized as American Independence day, and conjures thoughts of fireworks, hot-dogs, sparklers and block parties for people around the world.
People around the planet are familiar with this day, thanks to movies and television. We’ve all seen the images in American films, portraying these celebratory scenes. The cliché is generally a setting with kids running slow-motion through the street with red and white gingham tablecloths dotted out of focus in the background. Props like lemonade, ketchup, mustard, and smiling veneers of perfect housewives and happy families feature heavily in my own mind’s eye when I think of the 4th of July.
I’d take a stab at saying the vast majority of my Kiwi friends and family covet this kind of fairytale to some degree. It seems so idyllic, so full of energy and community. So very, what is the word I am looking for… Patriotic.
Kiwis are a bit more low key. I find more joy and sense of community in Matariki than I do in Waitangi day (our 4th of July equivalent). Waitangi day, sadly, often seems to turn into some racial and moral soap-box. We don’t have big block parties and BBQ’s. We have a long weekend in the middle of our antipodean summer, and we get together to roll our eyes at the sorry state of affairs. We get together, and carry on to love the stuffing out of our special people at beaches, baches, parks and playgrounds across this beautiful island nation. We laugh, we eat, we toast, we talk.
On the way to the airport to fly home to Auckland, the iconic Kiwi Poet Sam Hunt was on the radio. He was being interviewed by Paul Henry (who I can’t help but like despite, or perhaps because, he always seems to have his foot in his mouth) for his birthday and to publicise his new book.
Sam Hunt is a seasoned eccentric. He was born to be so. He left school at 16 with a brain full of knowledge. The intelligence he cultivated wasn’t generally gleaned from his traditional academic path. His mother was a huge fan of astronomy and poetry, and his father was a barrister with a love of words and debate. He was nurtured in fertile soils of knowledge, and went off on many adventures, and those adventures have turned into poems and stories that I hope most New Zealanders get to feel percolate through them, as his life experiences and words are so deliciously human, and quintessentially Kiwi.
Sam Hunt gave me a gift for his 70th Birthday this morning.
He gave me some poignant phrases and his candor and humor lit a spark inside of me that has been smoldering for some weeks and threatening to go out completely.
Sam Hunt, along with the irrepressible Paul Henry, gave me a renewed sense of self, and reminded me that words, to me, are like sunlight or rain. New Zealand is my home. I chose it, it chose me back, and this place contains the majority of my purpose and passion.
We are all connected here, intimately. We are a community, diverse yet similar on so many levels. We are the underdog that rises triumphant, time and again. We are temperate and volatile, and sit waiting the next shake-up, as we are perched precariously on the ring of fire. We are humble, we are brave, we are loud, we are quiet, we are busy, we are calm, we are beaches and bush and bathed in brilliant golden sunshine.
Seems to me, Sam Hunt, and thousands of eccentrics before and after him have been labeled a spectacle. He’s spoken up and spoken out about many things, in his art and on a variety of fronts. He personifies a lot of the freedom of thought and speech that we enjoy in New Zealand, and that America has tirelessly fought for and debated. So thank you for that Sam.
I am also, openly and unashamedly grateful to be in a safe, sleepy island nation where I am free to think and be a part of this society. I can find people who agree, or who disagree, and I never, not for one split second worry about someone pulling out a gun to hurt me or anyone I Love. Not on a motorway, or shop, school or movie theatre.
A nurse can throw a dildo at a politician in protest, get international media attention which seemed to leave both the woman who threw it, and the man at whom she threw it, somewhat better off. He handled the situation with humour and gained international media attention. This, many have said, left him looking like a pretty decent bloke.
She got her point across to millions and millions of people here and around the world. She also gained a very solid fan base for a while there, and then was given the chance to slip back into relative anonymity. No jail sentence, no talk show circuit, no Chewbacca mom getting paid for autographs carry on for her. Because this is NOT America. Nothing against Chewbacca mom of course, we just do things a bit differently around here it seems.
I wish the United States of America peace and enlightenment on this, the day they celebrate their independence.
I hope that they put down their guns, and only people who can use them responsibly can pick them back up.
I hope they do not vote in Trump.
I hope they learn to care for eachother and their own and the rest of the world’s resources a bit better.
Wait… I wish that for New Zealand too!!!
Anyway. I could go on, but I won’t.
Just wishing everyone a very happy 4th of July in America and around the world.
Maybe we can all declare independence from some of the things that no longer serve us today, and move forward with confidence and kindness for a safer, cleaner, and more enjoyable planet.
Thanks for reading.