Postcards from the Kiwis
A touching new book shows that New Zealanders stand shoulder-to-shoulder with America in the war on terrorism.
12:00 AM, May 15, 2002 • By CLAUDIA WINKLER
A NEW ZEALANDER I've never met sent me a present last week. When it arrived, I was immersed in our magazine's latest ruminations on European ambivalence about America, and the unexpected gift from a faraway friend-of-a-friend felt like a tonic.
It turned out to be a handsome paperback collection of "Letters to New York and America: From New Zealand with Love." Each letter has a page to itself, opposite a photo of the sender. It's the brainchild of New Zealand writer and publisher Mary Hobbs and her mountain-guide husband Charlie as a gesture of solidarity with Americans after September 11.
The senders start with the governor general (the queen's representative in New Zealand) and the prime minister--both women, incidentally--and several other dignitaries, then move on to firefighters, farmers, athletes, clergymen, teachers, business people, and the New Zealand Master Hairdresser of the Year (resplendent in shoulder-length blond dreadlocks). Steve, who sent me the book, singled out two entries as nearest to his own views:
The first, from John Hamilton, a builder turned secondary school teacher, seems almost an exercise in prose poetry:
"We are different you and I, yours and mine.
"A good difference, a difference of friends intrigued by each other, yet enjoying the bond of a common language, shared values and a century or so of getting to know one another.
"This New Zealander despaired at the TV images, feeling powerless to help. He wanted to stand and shout.
"This New Zealander wanted to breathe the dust, cut his hands and knees attacking the rubble beside his friends in their need--rescuing together.
"This New Zealander speaks for many.
"We admire America, her vigour and confidence, her resilience and generosity of spirit, and know it will not be spoilt.
"Look to your friends--come to New Zealand--and be among them."
The second is from sportswoman and "national icon" Alison Roe, who held a record in the New York Marathon for 13 years. She writes:
"In the face of adversity, Americans get on with it.
"History shows that you are often the most generous, yet least appreciated people on earth.
"America has provided opportunity and help to so many, has contributed billions in support and frequently forgiven billions more in debt.
"I admire the resolve of the American people, that unconquerable spirit that dominates the thinking and attitude of a proud nation.
"We can learn from you.
"Continue to stand strong and triumphant.
"We love you America."
My favorite, besides those, is from part-owners of the Copper Club restaurant in Queenstown, who also run an international ski race to raise money for a medical charity. They write:
"We sat stunned as the events of September 11 unfolded. It was beyond belief and comprehension.
"The most appropriate words we can offer are those spoken by your own President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863, at Gettysburg:
"'That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.'
"With heartfelt best wishes, Jane, Sarah and Fraser"
If you like this sampling and want to see more, you can order the book. Its graciousness and good will, of course, don't negate the less complimentary sentiments and judgments of some in Europe and around the globe. But it's encouraging to know that straightforward appreciation of America is still out there--along with the willingness actually to aid our cause.
Lest we forget, after all, the world's solidarity isn't a mere matter of words. For a summary of the contributions of 28 countries assisting us in Afghanistan, compiled by Central Command, click here. (For Japan's contribution, omitted, I assume inadvertently, from that list, click here.)
Even New Zealanders are deployed in this war--as they were in the Gulf War a decade ago, and in Vietnam, and in the world wars. My new kiwi friend Steve reminded me of this in the note he attached to the book, which ends:
"We had ANZAC Day here yesterday. (A holiday to honour returned servicemen from past wars, and remember those that didn't return.) Record crowds turned out at services up and down the country. A response to recent and current events perhaps.
"All the best--Steve"
Claudia Winkler is a managing editor at The Weekly Standard.