Sorry to upset you, Bill. It's not my country, and I shouldn't be quite so critical in my approach.

I do love America. I've made that long flight over the Pacific a couple of dozen times, often as part of a round the world trip, so I have a good idea. I also have many close friends and relations, and a lot of my opinions are based on theirs.

America is important as a world leader through its contribution to world security over the past century, and its leadership in many global efforts. The CDC, for example, has a key role in global health. NATO and ANZUS etc. as a bulwark against communism.

On the environment, what Australia does is neither here nor there, but the leading advanced economies, such as China, Europe, America, their impact is considerable.

I preferred John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008, but both were fine leaders. Don Trump not so much. I detested seeing a great nation under the influence of a con man who had very little knowledge and no concept of service. The chaos and waste and incompetence of his administration is staggering. I think Putin must have spent the past four years congratulating himself over the benefits of his investment.

Pish. Nobody confiscated firearms in Australia. Duck hunting is legal. But both are heavily controlled. We had a massacre in 1996 and the federal government took action. I was 12 years old, and horrified that one young man could kill dozens of people. It came right after the Dunblane event, where schoolchildren were targeted. We all felt very strongly about this.

The federal government has no power over firearms, by the way, except insofar as controlling imports. It's up to the States.

The federal government coordinated legislation and a buyback scheme. You couldn't own a military style weapon unless you were one of a limited class of commercial hunters, for example. Handguns have always been heavily regulated.

People could own firearms, but their ownership and use was heavily restricted. The days of going up to a gun shop and just buying what you wanted were over. The Federal government paid compensation for surrendered weapons and they were destroyed.

Yes, there was a lot of ill-feeling over it, but I think the rate of firearm deaths and injuries here over the past generation speaks for itself. One major function of government is keeping the citizens safe.

Australia scores higher than America in every social measure. Literacy rates, lifespan, wealth, housing, happiness, lack of corruption. Obviously we're doing something right. Not perfect - you have to go to New Zealand for that - but we do pretty good.

I think America is literally shooting itself in the foot over many things. School massacres; how come this is even a thing? Police killing their fellow citizens. More Americans locked up than Soviet Russia. People living on the streets. The high cost of healthcare. Massive divisions in society. The astonishing anti-science lobby.

I listen to my friends. They have concerns and worries that no Australians share. Our votes are not gerrymandered into oblivion. We can cast a protest vote without it being wasted. We don't have to show ID to vote.

If we get a serious illness, someone will look after us. We won't go bankrupt if we get cancer or have a child. Sick leave is plentiful, as is holiday leave. Four weeks a year minimum here, paid, with a loading, and getting more is not difficult.

Consequently we tend to travel a lot. Maybe I'm a special case, but I would find it hard to come up with anyone past their teens who has not had multiple overseas trips. I've been to 31 nations, most of them multiple times, plus a few more - Finland, South Africa, Qatar, UAE - where I haven't left the airport.

My American friends and family, they tend not to see so much of the world. A lot of them wouldn't have a passport.

So forgive me if I think America could arrange things a little better for its citizens. There's more to life than spending it making rich people richer and supporting an unproductive class of priests.

Again, it's not my land, and it's up to you folk to arrange your own affairs, but I can always compare the places I've been, and where Northern Europe scores high in many measures, America falls short.


Britni Pepper has always enjoyed telling stories. About people, places and pleasures.

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