Politics

POLITICS

UGHActually, this isn't even politics - this is just plain old appalling. I read last night that our nation's treasurer finds wind farms 'utterly offensive' - apparently they spoil his view on the drive down to Parliament House from his plush home in North Sydney. There are young children living in detention centres right now - entirely innocent - that have come to our country with their family to seek asylum and old Joe thinks wind farms are offensive? UGH. It was only after half a bottle of pinot noir that I was able to actually finish reading the entirely disgusting rant of his.

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ON HUMANITY

From Richard Flannagan's sad and beautiful speech at the Perth Writer's Festival (as published here in The Guardian)... In the prison of these days when to praise freedom is to be derided as not showing affection for the nation; when those whose job it is to find truth are warned by the powerful to praise power, not question it; when in the desert of our politics, to show compassion for our fellow humans is to threaten our national borders with invasion; when, if forbidden by politics, by public discourse, by the ranters and ravers of the opinion pages, the fat-fed dogs of talk radio, to speak of kindness and goodness as touchstones of civilisation, perhaps we can do worse than seek to reaffirm ourselves in love stories.

For crammed into love stories are not just assignations, betrayals, setbacks and occasional ecstasy; not only hate and pain and horror, to say nothing of death and forgetting; but a better idea of us, a larger idea of our humanity.

Crowded into love stories between the discovery of ourselves in others and of others in ourselves, we glimpse something else, a boat, and on the boat, jammed between the polytarp thrown over the shivering, the sunburnt and the silent, caught between the briny largeness of the sea and the sky, terrifying and hopeful, breathing in the nauseating oily drifts of diesel fumes, stands a tall 23-year-old Iranian called Reza Barati who dares dream that freedom and safety will soon be his as the boat approaches the Australian territory of Christmas Island.

But the sky darkens, the idea cannot hold, the ocean shimmers and transforms into something terrible, and all that remains of that dream for Reza Barati is a white plastic chair he now holds up in front of him, seeking to ward off the inexplicable blows of machetes and bullets and boots – a white plastic chair, all that a rich nation that prides itself on a fair go, on its largeness of spirit, has left for Reza Barati to defend his life against those who have now come to kill him.

In this desert of silence that now passes for our public life, a silence only broken by personal vilification of anyone who posits an idea opposed to power, it is no longer wise for a public figure to express concern about a society that sees some human beings as no longer human; a society that has turned its back on those who came to us for asylum – that is, for freedom, and for safety. And so, with our tongues torn we are expected to agree with the silence, with the lies, and with the murder of Reza Barati.

POLITICS AND THE LIKE...

CAPITOLThat we happened to be in Washington DC at election time is nothing but chance. We planned these dates and stops oh so many months ago, when polls were quiet and debates hadn't been called. But DC had always been a town we were most excited to see, so when it dawned on us that we would be there at an all-together electric time, we were pretty damn pleased with ourselves. We like our politics almost as much as we like our West Wing re-runs, which is to say quite a bit. Following the lead-up to it all from our studio in Sydney, catching speeches and reports second hand and trawling through endless articles and predictions seemed surreal and very far away as we drove into Washington last Saturday afternoon. I was smitten from the first block of quaint stone buildings, nothing towering-high, just old and impressive, set back as they were behind tree-lined streets. Our friends lived just beyond Dupont Circle, an area I wouldn't care to drive in heavy traffic (I get confused by roundabouts in this country, my instinct is to swing left), but so beautiful and leafy, dotted with embassies and brick townhouses. We had three days ahead of us and a hundred odd things we wanted to do. And while the weather was brisk, it was gloriously sunny for us the whole time.

Jordy had done his research and kindly written ahead to his senator, a pretty wonderful way to have your tours organised for government buildings. It meant we didn't have to queue, and knew ahead of time where and when we'd be able to see certain things. It also meant we were able to get into the White House - this was confirmed late, but miraculously fell on election day itself. On the first day we made it to the Capitol Building and the Congressional Library, and both were outstanding - not just in terms of the quality of information and access, but the buildings themselves and the stories they held were pretty humbling. Getting a big dose of tradition and culture was a brilliant way to start this trip around America. I have a better idea of the history and happenings that built it, and I have an enormous soft spot for the man they re-elected to run it. Walking through the White House, or the few rooms we were able to, on our last day there made for a pretty special time. It's hard to even describe the hour or so we spent there, except to say it felt important and so impressive. The walls were dripping with paintings of some of the most intelligent men the world has known, or certainly the most powerful. That the rooms are still in use, and the halls are walked by staff and first family alike, made me feel a little like a rockstar.

We listened to the election results pour in as we drove down to North Carolina that afternoon. And from a small side table at the Raleigh Times (a brilliant local bar, if you're ever in the area, in the city's old newspaper offices) we listened to locals cheer and whoop as states were declared blue. I was proud of my guy, whose Iowa vote seemed a pretty damn important one in the end, and was one of the many who got teary during President Obama's acceptance speech. It was heartening to see a country make such a big and, in my mind, positive choice.