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Bruce Down Under

Whatever your politics, at least Bruce Springsteen music fans now know after last Tuesday’s election results whether or not he will have to move to Australia. He had famously vowed to move there if his presidential candidate didn’t win. In my opinion, you should not bail out when you think the plane is on fire; you should stay strapped in the cockpit and land it. But that’s me.

Australia is nice enough, but I never saw the big deal. In fact, it’s almost like another copy of the United States, but flipped into another hemisphere. It’s not all Mad Max, Crocodile Dundee and Olivia Newton John. Once you get outside the cities, which are clustered around the coast, you’d think you were in New Mexico, Nevada or Baja California.

Like many of us, Australians are very environmentally conscious. Many worry about the degradation of the coral formations on the Great Barrier Reef. I was on a nuclear-powered ship that was blocked entry to the harbor at Perth by the activist group, Green Peace, who surrounded us in their Zodiac inflatable boats. They were afraid we would contaminate the local waters. Not long afterward, some members of this same group were accidentally killed by the French Navy when they tried to prevent some nuclear bomb tests in French Polynesia.

There is also a rising sensitivity about treatment of the aboriginal population, similar to what I sense in the United States regarding Native Americans. Things are also relatively expensive there. I remember sending a sailor home on emergency leave and being amazed that it cost as much to fly across country, from Fremantle to Sydney, on Qantas, the national airline, as it did from Sydney to the States.

But to be honest, I haven’t been around that many Australians for any length of time. I’ve been on a few of their ships, and I did sponsor an Australian Navy exchange officer and his family in Newport, Rhode Island, for a year. We got to know them pretty well. When they initially arrived and visited their first supermarket, they were amazed at the variety of choices available for any one product – dozens of cereals, for example.  They were looking for that awful tasting “vegemite,” the condiment that Australians spread on their food like peanut butter or catsup. I also remember that, before I helped them purchase a car, at drive-in restaurants they would walk through the car lane to order rather than go inside.

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