It was no surprise to me when moving to Australia that folks would be very interested in and knowledgeable about political affairs in the United States. The interest is palpable. So much so that it sparks things like what I picture here, an ad for nail polish disguised as political commentary...or is political commentary disguised as a nail polish ad? Statements and signs like this are everywhere, even months after the election.
Each time I meet a new Aussie and they find out I'm American, the conversation inevitably leads to my views of American politics. The Fulbright committee must have anticipated this as during my interview for the scholarship, they introduced a double-loaded question regarding not only how I would explain my views of the election and then candidate Trump, but also my stance on immigration. I suppose they do go hand in hand. While the Fulbright committee did not laugh at the jokes I made during my bumbling response (I was reassured by all other scholars that they too, were caught off guard and fumbled here...), this was good preparation.
Now what has surprised me is the impact American politics has on students and I've heard stories of kiddos as young as four making insightful conclusions about the state of American affairs or experience worry about what will become of the world. To point, the daughter of one of the PhD's working with me here, four years old at the time, told her mum that Donald Trump must not like his wife because he does not like women. It's amazing what young children can pick up from brief glimpses of the news.
I had another encounter just yesterday. I was ordering lunch while visiting a local school in Brisbane. The very polite Year 9 student in front of me asked if I was American and sparked a lovely conversation around animals that can kill me, drop bears, and Vegemite. All pleasantries until he felt we were acquainted enough (and confirmed I wasn't too radical) for him to bring up what he was really after, my thoughts on the presidency. He began with a joke: Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump go down together in a plane crash. Who survives?
At least he's bipartisan. I found this joke quite funny and apparently, it's a popular one around here. We then had a honest discussion about world powers, war, and nuclear codes. We both agreed that we feel very safe in Australia and are glad for its lack of resources worth bombing for.
In Launceston, Tasmania last month I visited "The Battery Shed" a space next to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery that holds after-school and weekend coding and gaming classes. It was the final day of the current session and students were all frantically testing out their games, holding their breath as they press "run". Most of the games seemed to follow a similar premise (and bear with me here, I am not a gamer): your artfully designed main character move about through your game path, pouncing on your enemy to avoid your own demise. Basically, they reminded me of Mario running around and jumping on goombas. One student in particular had designed his game replacing the goombas with mini-Trumps, complete with their pixelated American Flag jumpers. The student next to him was putting the final touches on one of this game pieces, a "Trump Tank".
I am not one to discuss my political views online and I am not going to start now but I find it fascinating how much of an impact the US has on even young students over here. While one may assume that these games and comments are spurred from a surface-level knowledge of the US picked up around the dinner table (I know that when I was their age, that's all I knew and I lived there!), I can attest that these students are very well informed and articulate about their beliefs, their fears, and their concern over what is happening stateside and what it may mean for their own future. We should pay attention to what they are saying (and if you'd like to purchase your very own bottle of "Impeachment" click here).