Most evenings I read a chapter from ‘A Threefold Cord’ to my grandchildren in Sydney. I have to wait until they’ve brushed their teeth, then, like apparitions in pyjamas, Ruby and Joel materialise, chattering and excited, on my screen. The book from which we’re reading is the novel I wrote for children in 2013. In the late chapters of the story, three Aussie fourth-graders meet a much younger child named Samara, an orphan, and take her under their wing. Samara has an extraordinary story to tell: she is a boat person, sole survivor of her family who all drowned when their “irregular” vessel foundered off Christmas Island.
The painful tale that Samara tells of seeing her loved ones slip beneath the waves is taken from events that were life-true facts in 2013. After those drownings the real-life child who lost his entire nuclear family was denied the right to attend the family funeral on the mainland. The Minister for On-Water Matters ruled it out. At the time I felt shame. I decided to exclude that shameful pettiness from my novel. I did not want children readers to think badly of Australia.
After reading of “Samara” to the children this evening, I came across the following: Prime Minister Morrison has issued enforceable physical distancing directives to protect everyone in Australia from infection, transmission and loss of life in the COVID-19 crisis in Australia.1440 people seeking asylum and refugees remain held inside the national immigration places of detention in crowded, communal living conditions, under constant guard and without personal protective equipment or medical oversight into their care.Medical professionals have warned a lethal outbreak is imminent which will endanger the public and place greater strain on health care systems…The former Minister for On-Water matters is now Father of the Nation. I’ve been impressed by his leadership during our present emergency, (I’ve written as much in this medium). He’s been firm, calm, calming. In my simplicity I have difficulty reconciling his religious posture with his previous management of ‘illegal’ asylum seekers. His iron-minded predecessor was likewise a man of conspicuous religiosity. Doesn’t their religion preach love, especially love to the least among us? Their political ministry was bare of love, seemingly at odds with any religious ministry.
A friend of this blog is a Minister in the Anglican Church in this country. He wrote to me today, asking me reflect in these pages on the place of the Almighty in COVID-19. I smiled and I dismissed the idea. Theodicy is a steep slope; on those steeps, I’d just write idiocy. But now Samara calls to me. She calls to all of us, calling in the name of her God, whom she calls God, “Allah.” She calls to us on behalf of the fourteen hundred and forty, ‘the least of us’; she calls for the Father of the Nation to protect the fourteen hundred and forty.
I don’t doubt the Fathers of the Nation have their better angels. In office the Fathers bind their angels’ wings. In private conversation with politicians of the backbench and the frontbench,I’ve heard them sigh and regret not feeling free to act differently. I see these people not as diabolical but as captive. They are captive to their fear of us, the electors, who would punish them for acting not on platform but prompted by love.
It is for the nation as a whole to give the fathers courage, to free their angels, to free the captives, to bring them into their love.
This inhumanity leaves me saddened & ashamed! It’s incredulous to think that this is still occurring here or anywhere. Thanks for your words.
I shake my head too- in wonder and in sorrow
When I read my kids’ book to young children they get it: a person who is unsafe at home must be given refuge
That’s what we try to do for unsafe households; we should do the same for people unsafe in their home countries.
But no, politicians fear we will punish them for simple goodness
See my next blog post….
Thanks for writing big-hearted Bev
Dear Howard, I agree with Pat’s comments. Unfortunately, love takes a backseat to politics it seems. It’s hard to imagine how our political leaders come to terms with this situation. However, there are some out there in the general public who would agree with the decisions of our government. Your article should be published, we need our feelings and thoughts represented, and who better than you to do so. It may awaken compassion in others.
I’m afraid I’m too lazy to send stuff for publishing
And newspapers aren’t terribly interested in a non-expert’s opinions
It’s kind of you to take an interest and I enjoy writing for the select who follow this blog
Beautifully written as always Howard. Hope you are keeping well. X
Terribly well, Tammie, unfairly so
My clinician sisters and brothers go to the front every day and work every moment in the face of a possible volley of Covid-enriched snot
While I sit safely at home doing Telehealth
So I’m well, Uncomfortably well
Thank you T
Oh Howard that is so powerful. How can we bring about change? I so wish this article could be published in every newspaper and that a ground swell, a public outcry could change these Fathers of the Nation. I am convinced that our grandchildren will look back with shame on our treatment of these asylum seekers.
I’ve sat on your response, pondering your excellent question
I don’t think I’ve come close to an answer, but I can hope to refine the question
I’ll post the ponderous fruit in coming days
I really want to be a Pediatrician in future, because I adore kids, but the problem is, I can’t see them in pain.
That shows you are suitable for the work: if you didn’t mind the suffering big children you would not be the right person
In that work you will relieve suffering