Thursday, November 6, 2008


The date above is US time, but it is already Friday in this hemisphere.

Here in New Zealand, as ill-fated Ophelia said, tomorrow is Saint Valentine's Day , or something like it. We get to tell a person that we love her, or him, but we do it anonymously, through the medium of the secret ballot. The USA had their turn during the week, but they did not have a woman (though Hillary, named after our Ed Hillary, according to a politician's false spin, did her best to get into the wrestling ring). Hillary Clinton was consigned to the wings, but Sarah Palin, in her polar bear fur-coat, metaphorically speaking, was brought onto the stage. She believes the Bible (supported by the recently deceased Michael Crichton): humans were once hunted by dinosaurs, and vice versa. I can not find dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible, unless they were the giants that pop up on the earth; in the olden days dinosaur bones were thought to belong to human giants. Sarah does not read newspapers, but she knows that humans are not causing climate change; it is still cold in Alaska, so global warming is nonsense.

However, in this country the candidates for leader are not giving us a choice between black and white, but male and female, and the woman is no dumb blonde or ignorant brunette. I met Helen Clark of the Labour Party at Massey University a decade ago, and told her I was a supporter, and she gave me a copy of her manifesto; we had a friendly discussion about the future of the university. She has been our prime minister since then, and the arts have flourished; she likes opera! There is a story that will not go away, about her appreciation of paintings: she put her signature on one and it was sold to raise money for charity; this was supposed to prove the deceitfulness of politicians and her own lack of honesty. Pardon me, artists put their names on the painting itself; Helen signed on the back, merely indicating that the work had passed through her hands and had met with her approval. It is the same as writing one's name on the flyleaf of a book; this indicates ownership not authorship.

Recently four hundred Jewish New Zealanders attended a celebration at our parliament. Helen Clark spoke glowingly about their contribution to New Zealand society, providing two prime ministers in the past.

Ironically, her opponent John Key is Jewish (the cartoonists have noticed the nose), and a third instance to add to her list may be coming up. Some people are muttering that Shylock will be ruling over us, and the promise of tax "cuts" suddenly sounds ominous; and his National Party is renowned for not doing what they said they would do, doing what they said they would not do, and turning on a whole pile of surprises that had not been mentioned at the hustings.

It was noticeable that when the two leaders had another debate on television, immediately after the results of the Obama and McCain election, instead of shouting each other down again, they were conciliatory and civil.

If John Key becomes my prime minister, I will remember my distant Jewish ancestry, and be guided by Helen's words, that NZ Jewry have given us "their passion for education, family and community and their social conscience".

The contest is not only red and blue, as in the USA, but also GREEN, lest we forget.

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