When we hear Tony Abbott fighting to protect the human rights of asylum seekers against Julia Gillard‘s implacable determination to traduce them, we know we’ve entered a twilight zone in which we may remain trapped for quite some time.
The battle for political control lurches from one abusive and accusatory encounter to the next, between she who would be mother of the nation, and he who would be our dad. Like children caught in an acrimonious parental break-up, we are forced to listen to the protagonists defile and mock each other with no regard for the confusion and insecurity they are sowing in our hearts and minds.
As if that isn’t enough, they are hell-bent on turning the ingrained gender expectations on which we build our lives inside out, as dad fights to be more caring about people than mum, when everybody knows it’s supposed to be the other way around.
Driven by ego and their unrelenting determination to pulverize one another, they have made the fate of a handful of asylum seekers their theatre of war, and we, along with asylum seekers, are collateral damage in their fight to the death to take the lowest moral ground and on it plant their victory flag.
Frightened and disbelieving, we watch as concern for the less fortunate manifests across our previously hard-as-nails dad’s visage. Mum’s face daily becomes more grim, her lips closed tight in a forced smile as she digs in deep, while dad berates her for her cruelty. If she’ll send unaccompanied children to Malaysia what might she do to us?
But can we trust this newly compassionate dad, dare we consign our future to his hands? So many times he’s dropped us on our heads! So many times he’s failed to feed us and left us sitting in our own excrement while he selfishly attended to the well-being of his body, on his bike and on the beaches!
Neglected as the fur flies, we struggle to understand our mother’s betrayal. Our uncle Bob is of little help, he’s got nothing good to say about either mum or dad, and seems to have cast us to our fate. All the rest of our aunts and uncles and cousins in Canberra have chosen to keep silent, in the way families frequently decide to keep out of the matrimonial upheavals of their members. Like police called to a domestic, they know any interference will likely see them end up with bloodied noses, if not blamed for the problems in the first place.
All this discretion is well and good, but what about the children!
Aunt Janelle came out and called for on shore processing, but her lone voice was immediately drowned out and only reported in a regional newspaper. It was then that it dawned on us that this battle is not really about asylum seekers. It’s all about mum and dad. It’s about who gets to be the boss of us. It’s about who can hold out the longest. It’s about whose will triumphs, the female or the male. It’s about dad being pissed off that mum got a better paid job than he did. It’s about mum fighting him to make sure she keeps it. Asylum seekers are the cover story. Dad doesn’t give any more of a toss about their human rights than mum. He’s faking it. She’s also faking just about everything, except her determination to break him and grind him into the ground with her high-heeled boots.
That’s the real mum she promised to show us and never has, not even in the Women’s Weekly where every mum is supposed to be real.
How can we stand this much reality and hold onto our sanity?
As in the worst of marital breakups, this one will be fought until there’s nothing left to fight over, until the participants are left shredded and bleeding out, all assets gone to pay the lawyers, the children in therapy, the dog forgotten and starving, extended families torn asunder, forced into warring tribal groups who turn their backs on one another at weddings and christenings, and boycott each other’s funerals.
Stock up on food and water. Get in plenty of candles. We’re in this for the long haul and we’re going to have to stand on our own two feet because the adults have left the building. Who knows what the outcome will be?
- Abbott signals no to migration law changes (theage.com.au)
- Both sides courting disaster over asylum seeker policy (thepunch.com.au)
- Smugglers are watching, Bowen warns Abbott (news.theage.com.au)
- Thinking outside the boxes (theage.com.au)