My father was a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, of course). My mother was one too. But Tony Abbott’s parents, judging by their choice of schooling for their son, were not.
Which is why our Prime Minister impresses the hell out of me; a brave and fearless man, prepared to open a dark closet from the not so distant past, and cop it sweet. Because on the WASP meter he only scores three out of four, and Protestant he most certainly is not.
So what does this matter? Under existing laws, not one jot. But under the new regime put forward by that apparent champion of bigotry, George Brandis, it could matter heaps because not only does this proposed legislation enshrine the right to legally “insult, offend and humiliate” other Australians on racial grounds, it also extends this open slather approach to discussions of “political, social, cultural (or) religious” matters.
And there stands Tony, totally unfazed by the possibility of unleashing upon himself the torrents of insult and prejudice which once formed the cutting edge of intolerance in this country. Either that, or else he has forgotten his history.
Because if we go back just one generation, we find ourselves in my father’s primary school years.
Now, my dad went to the state school in a suburb where the Catholic school used the same thoroughfare.
From day one he realised that state school kids walked up the left hand side, while Catholic kids walked up the right.
Seventy-five years later he could still vividly remember the names they called to each other, the insults that were freely traded and the verse that was chanted with vehemence and passion, its sole intent to hurt and enrage, even to the point of physical violence which would take place on loudly attended Friday afternoons in the alleyway behind the shops, as the current champion of each camp defended the honour of their birthright.
What he couldn’t recall, however, was why they did it.
They certainly didn’t know what any of it meant.
All it did was to deny them any meaningful contact with their nearest neighbouring school, while dividing their suburb into those kids who could be played with and those kids who most definitely could not.
So all he could put it down to was that this was just how things were back then, but that thankfully they had changed.
Until now, when we welcome the brave new/old world of Tony Abbott and sections of his party, as they confidently take off the gloves and limber up for a whole new bout of serious invective, defamation and good old fashioned name calling.
And under his new regime, what’s to stop me catching the bus up to Canberra and walking along the other side of the street from him as he makes his way to Parliament House, dredging up the insults of our fathers’ generation and slinging snide and nasty attacks upon his deeply held and much cherished religious conviction, all the while scoffing at his feeble rejoinders aimed at my dad’s Anglicanism as they deflect harmlessly from my thick, new found secular hide?
Of course, I personally wouldn’t bother doing it as I don’t care for confrontation. But plenty of others thrive on it, even perhaps to the point of mentioning the greater institution which enshrines his faith, including facets of its recent past.
At which point things could get very ugly, very personal, very much out of hand, and all perfectly legal. Because there would be no limit to the depths which could be plumbed, given that it would be totally impossible for anyone to cause Mr Abbott to have “fear of physical harm” by illegally “intimidating” him, on account of the fact that he has the full protection of the Federal Police and that he also seems to have part ownership of an army, or some such thing.
And to think that many are saying that all this is simply to allow the likes of Andrew Bolt to bigotedly offend, insult and humiliate without fear of legal censure.
Surely they are wrong, for to open such a can of worms will always cut both ways. Because, let’s not deny it, if people of wit, intelligence and contrary perspective were to also try their hand at offending, insulting and humiliating targets of their own choosing, then they might actually be half good at it.
Would they bother, or would they exercise their freedom of choice and decide not to descend to the level of some tabloid commentators just because such a thing is officially sanctioned by the so called high and mighty?
Might they not instead decide to come from the other side of the coin and act with some maturity, decorum and a modicum of style.
Not that it would matter to Tony.
For if anyone was ever to slip into the darker realms of political or religious “discussion” and get seriously down and dirty, then they would run straight into the rocky shore of our PM’s vast self assurance.
There they would find him, ready and waiting, leading with his chin and quite prepared for whatever might be thrown its way.
What a guy!