By Lesley Diaz
Following the first phone call between President Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, I texted my Mum to ask, “How is Australia reacting to Trump’s call with Turnbull?”
Her response, “Malcolm is not a happy chappy.”
Despite the troubling circumstances of the call, I chuckled at this classic example of Aussie understatement, and immediately thought of the scene in that awful but iconic Aussie film “Crocodile Dundee,” when Mick Dundee is confronted by a gang member in New York City who threatens him with a knife.
“That’s not a knife,” says Dundee, as he confidently inspects the puny switchblade, “this is a knife,” pulling out a 12-inch blade as the formerly aggressive gang member scampers away.
You can learn so much about the Aussie spirit in that 30-second exchange.
We really don’t like to fight. We would rather disarm you with our “blokey” charm and humor than engage in direct confrontation. But under our unsophisticated exterior, we are smart, strong and well-prepared to face whatever situations we have walked into and to defend ourselves if necessary.
For heaven’s sake, most of us grew up with seven of the world’s 10 most poisonous snakes and spiders in our backyards! And wrestling crocodiles is a national sport. (In case you missed it, there’s that blokey humor.)
Australia is a small country with a small economy and a small population. We pose no real threat to the world order. We know that.
But we also have a wonderful climate and world-class natural resources that have allowed us to build an independent existence a long way from “home.” Australians consider themselves inhabitants of “The Lucky Country” and we work hard (most of the time) to make sure that we don’t squander our good fortune by adopting a competitive, confrontational stance toward each other, our friends or our neighbors.
We know that we depend on the support of other people and other nations if we want to preserve our “luck.” So we choose our friends carefully and are fiercely loyal in our defense of them.
You may have heard that Australians have stood shoulder to shoulder with U.S. troops in every conflict, popular and unpopular, since the turn of the 20th century.
My father helped patch wounded Vietnam soldiers on their way home from the front lines.
Currently Australia hosts, and shares the cost of supporting, 1,250 U.S. Marines at a military base in Darwin, located at the Top End of Australia, and is set to double that number by 2020. The U.S. veterans I meet here almost always tell me of the warm welcome they received from Australia and Australians when they furloughed at Jervis Bay in Sydney.
You may also have read that Australia is one of only five nations that explicitly share intelligence in a reciprocal relationship that is only possible because of the confidence we have in each other that we share a fundamental set of values.
Given this 70-plus year history of friendship, mutual support and the pursuit of complementary goals, it seems unwise and dangerous to the integrity of both nations to compromise that legacy for such a short-term politically expedient motive.
Australia is like the happy-go-lucky younger brother of the family, but far from being irresponsible, we have supported our slightly older and infinitely stronger sibling when he got into scraps – every time.
But now, Malcolm is not a happy chappy, and that can’t be good for Aussies or Americans.