A Tale of Two Countries

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, 

it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, 

it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, 

it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, 

it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

— Charles Dickens

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I’m not unbiased. I would never claim to be. I have made my views clear on every occasion. And with dual citizenship in The US and New Zealand, I believe that I have a right to make a comparison between these two countries. And in the middle of Covid-19, the differences between the two are stark. I think it is obvious that the main reason behind how these countries are emerging from the pandemic is the difference between the two leaders …

‘The age of wisdom, the age of foolishness… The spring of hope, the winter of despair.’

I sought information from as many different sources as possible:

News sources from the US, from NZ and internationally…

And almost unanimously, from mainstream, established, internationally respected news sources, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, has done a stellar job in handling this crisis; whereas the President of The United States, Donald Trump, has done a dismal job.

… Although for the sake of transparency, I did not go to Fox News where an alternate reality exists… As I said, I never claimed to be unbiased.

In terms of handling the outbreak, Jacinda has been direct and most importantly, empathetic. She did a great job at getting New Zealanders on board:

Jacinda Ardern Sold a Drastic Lockdown With Straight Talk and Mom Jokes

Leading New Zealand from isolation, Ms. Ardern coaxed her “team of five million” into accepting extreme restrictions. But the lessons of her success go beyond personality or charm…

Whereas Trump has shown little leadership, and when he has spoken up, many feel that he is more interested in himself than the people he supposedly leads:

Trump sees the coronavirus as a threat to his self-interest – not to people.

Trump has made it clear he sees this pandemic chiefly as a threat to the market and wealthy people’s interests (and relatedly, his political future)

Jacinda has been described as empathetic and caring, yet strong.

Whereas it has been stated that Trump is incapable of empathy. And Trump has been described as self-serving and authoritarian.

New Zealand has had one or two new cases of Covid-19 in the past several days, all from people coming in from overseas, and all in isolation. Their containment of the virus has been described as observing ‘good science’ and being well-communicated.

Trump’s handling of the virus has been described as ‘dismal!’ And it has been said that US could see 100,000 coronavirus daily cases in the near future.

And because of the better handling of this crisis, New Zealand is in a much better position economically at this point. “The Covid-19 pandemic is expected to leave a lasting scar on the world’s economies but New Zealand is likely to fare better than most.”

Whereas the US economy is far from healthy; as a matter of fact, CNBC stated thatNearly half the U.S. population is without a job, showing how far the labor recovery has to goThe employment-population ratio — the number of employed people as a percentage of the U.S. adult population — plunged to 52.8% in May, meaning 47.2% of Americans are jobless.

Now I know, it isn’t fair to compare the US to NZ in many ways. New Zealand is a small country, only five million people; it’s located at the bottom of the world, a fair distance from any other countries; and it is easy to close the borders of an island nation. It is much easier to keep New Zealand safe from this virus than it is to keep a much bigger country that shares its borders.

However a comparison of these two countries does give a strong message. Good communication and empathic and caring, yet strong leadership helps a country through a crisis. A recent article in The New York Times argued that women led countries are doing much better in this crisis. ‘A new leadership style offers promise for a new era of global threats.’

Ultimately, I think it is fair to say that Jacinda Ardern is the Anti-Trump.

Vogue coined the phrase:

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, Is Young, Forward-Looking, and Unabashedly Liberal—Call Her the Anti-Trump

 

I’d like to close with what has become Jacinda’s iconic Facebook Live post as New Zealand prepared to go into lockdown. Her empathy, caring and just plain humanness is evident.

 

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts about these two leaders and their leadership styles.   And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Staying Close with Loved Ones Six Feet Apart … Intimacy, Connectedness and Coronavirus

“It’s ironic that as the pandemic forces us into our separate corners, it’s also showing us how intricately we are all connected.”

— David Byrne

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I bring my husband tea in the morning; I put the cup down at the top of the stairs, then sit down on the landing, about 7 feet down from the top. My husband waits ’til I’m seated, then comes to collect his tea, and sits at the top of the stairs to drink it. Thus begins our morning routine, our time to reconnect after he has slept upstairs in our room, while I sleep downstairs in our son’s room. My husband returned from Asia a few days ago, (*Yes he did make it home from the trip I wrote about in my past post) and is now in ‘quarantine’. He uses only one door in the house to go outside, which I do not use, and I bleach the handle after he uses it; I keep his dishes separate, use a bucket and hot water and a bit of bleach to wash them; he does not enter the kitchen at all. He is taking his temperature every morning and evening and paying attention to any possible symptoms, as was recommended by the health clinic here. This is our routine for the two-week quarantine.

We live in New Zealand where our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is doing an incredible job. According to the Washington Post, she and the NZ government aren’t just flattening the curve, they are squashing it. Here in NZ, the vast majority of us are accepting the new norm and respecting the lockdown requirements here. But even during, especially during, this lockdown, staying connected is essential.

David Byrne, singer, songwriter, filmmaker and lead singer and founding member of the Talking Heads, has written a beautiful piece about our connectedness in his online journal: Reasons to Be Cheerful:

The World Is Changing — So Can We

The pandemic is revealing the many ways our lives intersect. Is this an opportunity for us to reimagine what we can be? It’s showing us just how tenuous our existence becomes when we try to abandon those connections and distance from one another.

So with this new forced isolation and distance, how do we maintain our intimacy, and hold on to these feelings of connectedness that are so essential?

Even though my husband and I cannot touch, cannot even be in close physical proximity, we have created new routines, like our stairway talks to maintain our closeness. I have completely come to rely on Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. A simple phone call is not enough for me these days. I have a need to see friend’s faces. I message my sons more often. We ‘Hang Out’ and video chat on a more regular basis. Neighbors are checking in on each other more often – by phone, at the end of their drive or on walks.(keeping their physical distance of course). It is widely accepted that this connection with one another is absolutely necessary for one’s wellbeing.

I am seeing more and more articles about how to stay connected with friends and family during this challenging time.

Radio New Zealand featured an article about staying connected while in isolation with the help of technology; The United Way released guidelines about staying connected during Covid-19; and in The Atlantic recently, there was an article with suggestions on

The Art of Socializing During Quarantine. Writer Joe Pinsker has a few suggestions:

  • KEEP DINING AND DRINKING ‘TOGETHER’
  • REACH OUT TO FRIENDS NEAR AND FAR
  • USE A VARIETY OF MEDIA
  • SUPPORT OTHERS (OR JUST LET THEM KNOW YOU’RE AVAILABLE)
  • CONNECT WITH THE PEOPLE IN YOUR OWN HOME (*even if it is 6 feet apart)

I am definitely prioritizing connection these days. I see this connection as vital to my health and wellbeing. I am using this isolating time as an opportunity to stay connected. Byrne describes it like this:

What is happening now is an opportunity to learn how to change our behavior. For many of us, our belief in the value of the collective good has eroded in recent decades. But in an emergency that can change quickly. In emergencies, citizens can suddenly cooperate and collaborate. Change can happen. Here is an opportunity for us to see things differently — to see that we really are all connected — and adjust our behavior accordingly. 

 

We are connected, no matter the physical distance between us. Let’s all nurture this connectedness and use this extraordinary time to strengthen the bonds between us.

 

“Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
― Brené Brown

I’ll close with David Byrne discussing Reasons to be Cheerful.

I’d love to hear how you are staying connected in these challenging times. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.