The girl with no socks got to see the Queen, while her family and other black families lived in poverty that the Crown inflicted on them. – Stan Grant
Dear Stan, I hope you’re glad to hear from me.
I’ve read your latest on the ABC.
You wrote you’ve suffered from asphyxiation
In witnessing the Queen’s commemoration.
The notion that the populace should mourn
Is, by your telling, too much to be borne!
Enraged, you’ve felt a catalogue of pains,
Foremost, a strange ‘constriction in your veins’,
But also, dizzy spells and laboured breath.
(Old mate, be careful not catch your death!)
In terms of your paroxysms of rage,
Whose fits and throes you’ve struggled to assuage,
I must confess I found them odd at first,
Even as someone intimately versed
In how obsessions of identity
Can rob the kindest soul of empathy.
Regardless, I’m determined to extract
The core contentions of your latest tract.
Could there be something pertinent to glean?
Or is it just a cataract of spleen?
To start, let’s deconstruct your anecdote—
A stage on which you hector and emote.
It takes us back to nineteen-fifty-four,
A year you’re not reluctant to deplore.
It finds your mother in a tin-roofed humpy,
‘Dirt-poor’, unprivileged and, worse yet, jumpy,
For Queen Elizabeth, but newly crowned,
Was, to the joy of many, Dubbo-bound.
Students were urged to join the greeting flocks
But only if they owned a pair of socks,
Which posed a stark dilemma for your mother.
(She settled for the cast-offs of her brother.)
Your op-ed urges readers to compassion,
So while bigheartedness is back in fashion
Perhaps it’s time that someone let you know
That every family has tales of woe.
And since you like your characters unshod
I’ll try to give your preferences a nod
And offer something from the Great Depression.
(Few of my grandma’s friends could claim possession
Of socks or footwear in those dreadful years.)
With rental payments six weeks in arrears,
Wally, her elder brother, aged thirteen,
Dropped out of high school, thenceforth to be seen
Hoeing and weeding in a market garden.
Sure, he was ‘white’ but lest your feelings harden,
Let me assure you of his shoeless state;
It proved determinative of his fate.
For Wally trod upon a rusty nail,
Bringing on spasms nothing could curtail.
Aghast, his parents viewed the baleful scene,
Waiting for gracious death to intervene.
Poverty, shoelessness and tribulation
Were, I’ll agree, the much too common station
Of people from the years before TV.
But let me state my viewpoint candidly:
None of these problems had a single cause.
To blame the Crown, which didn’t write the laws,
Would strike me as a hare-brained contribution.
Hadn’t I ever browsed the Constitution?
Class would be relevant in Wally’s case,
In Betty Grant’s, you’d have to look at race,
Yet race and class were surely intertwined,
A fact your ‘think piece’ should’ve underlined.
And let’s add something further to the blender:
I’m mad at you for skimming over gender.
As someone versed in feminist critique,
You ought to spot the lapse whereof I speak:
I think we’re owed a better explanation
Of why your uncle made the sock-donation.
If gender, race and class are interlocking,
My theory should be anything but shocking:
The matter smacks of women’s subjugation,
A blatant case of sex discrimination.
I’ll plainly state the thought you’ve found unnerving:
Your grandfolks thought that boys were more deserving.
Well, aren’t the hermeneutics of suspicion
The go-to method of your coalition?
I know you’re fond of personal vignettes,
But I’m suspicious of how far one gets
By primping grievances for mass consumption.
Instead, let’s push on to your main presumption—
The Queen was guilty of imperialism,
The ‘queenpin’ of a bloody cataclysm.
Herein, we find your special seasoning:
A dash of motivated reasoning!
For when the queen ascended to the throne,
The colonies were striking out alone.
India’s flag, in orange, white and green,
Was, on the flagpole of the Red Fort, seen.
Likewise, in Pakistan the Star and Crescent
Was getting very close to omnipresent.
More to the point, from Accra to KL,
Self-rule was coming like a rising swell,
And by the monarch’s Silver Jubilee
Empire was ceded to a large degree.
A fair assessment of Elizabeth’s reign
Would’ve addressed this de-colonial strain.
Instead, you didn’t have a word to say
About new nations, forging their own way;
Gullible readers could be led to think
The map remained the deepest shade of pink.
By making this behemoth-sized omission
You wound up in the dubious position
Of either seeming not to care or know
About the victories our archives show.
But let’s pretend the clichés you enlist
(Who could forgive your use of ‘iron fist’?)
Really do prove that murderous oppression
Was, for the Queen, a singular obsession.
Moreover, let me sign on to your rightness
In claiming history’s ‘a hymn to whiteness’.
Further, I’ll swear you never shot a dud
And thus agree: ‘the past was penned in blood.’
Can we now get to reconciliation?
Might we conceive of broad cooperation?
You’ve made it amply clear your answer’s, ‘No,
The road to peace has countless miles to go.’
The tenor of your comments on The Voice
Suggest you’d find no reason to rejoice
Should referendum voters plump for ‘Yes’.
The reasons why aren’t difficult to guess:
Each step, while vital, doesn’t do the job,
So something extra’s owing to your mob.
The Voice to Parliament falls ‘short of justice’,
But why it disappoints, you won’t instruct us;
Or rather, you never lay it out forthrightly.
Yet I surmise that something most unsightly
Lurks in the background of your jeremiad:
The second letter of the D-E-I triad.
Based on your scribblings, it appears to me
You’ve joined the peevish cult of ‘equity’,
Whose converts cannot glance at a statistic
Without becoming staunchly moralistic,
Whose knee-jerk to the slightest differential
Is to pronounce it highly consequential.
Disparate rates of poverty and wealth
(And every metric known to public health)
Are prima facie an abomination,
Within the ranks of your denomination.
You mention inmates ‘languishing in cells’
And spell it out they’re Aboriginals,
As if the cause of their incarceration
Was indisputably discrimination.
For ‘guilt’ and ‘innocence’ are academic
To those who think of outcomes as systemic.
The state which generates inequities
Is, come what may, the villain of the piece.
That’s why you make no effort to explore
Figures about your people and the law.
Yet I found stats in writing this epistle,
Which, let me warn you, made my arm hairs bristle.
I thought I’d take a look at homicide,
An act whose weight can hardly be denied,
And found a criminology report
Whose findings won’t be easy to distort.
Though constituting only three percent
Of those inhabiting this continent,
First Nations people currently comprise
Fifteen percent of those who take a life.
Their victims, just in case you’re curious,
Are overwhelmingly Indigenous.
So when you suffer from more dizzy spells
While contemplating ‘languishers in cells’,
Consider, many of them killed their wives,
With fully half the crimes involving knives.
But I suspect there’s nothing I could say
To make you see the world a different way.
To you, it’s more or less foundational
That trauma’s intergenerational,
Meaning these killings have their truest cause
In bygone policies and long-junked laws.
The one whose fist delivers the assault
Is, to your way of thinking, not at fault.
Wherever passions have become vehement,
We see declining prospects for agreement,
So let’s move on from victimised offenders
And all the anguish that the past engenders.
I note that in your op-ed you impeach
The forces that have circumscribed your speech.
‘Everyone from the PM down’, you claim,
Has eyed your right to speak and taken aim.
Your piece implies you’re strong in the belief
That free speech shouldn’t ever come to grief—
A view with which I fervently agree.
Are we now closing in on harmony?
Though doubts remain, I’m hoping to conclude
We share a kernel of similitude,
As, now and then, you’ve seemed intent to fight
For free speech as a fundamental right.
When Caitlin Moran strutted onto Twitter,
Determined to be a most obnoxious critter,
Saying that Friday was a ‘good fkn day’
Because she’d heard the Queen had passed away,
Calling the head of state a ‘dumb dog’ too,
As if half-hearted vileness wouldn’t do,
You championed her right to give offense,
From which I’d love to take the inference
That you believe that everyone enjoys
The right to speech which needles and annoys.
Were it the case, I’d have to change my mind
And call you a liberal of the steadfast kind,
The shield of free speech, howsoever vile
Or mean or odd or hard to reconcile.
We’d listen while you took a solemn vow
To guard the rights of Evans and Folau,
Although you felt disgusted by their views.
Further, you wouldn’t be afraid to schmooze
With paleopathologist, Stephen Webb,
(Despite the fact your high esteem would ebb
With many members of the right-on mob.)
You’d let them caterwaul and do your job—
Edging us closer to the honest truth.
Hearing Professor Webb, who’s quite the sleuth,
You’d learn of evils done by First Nations men
(For ‘trauma’ meant a fractured skull back then),
With women being made to bear the brunt
Of cranial wounds, from weapons sharp and blunt.
The subject of deliberate attack,
With many blows inflicted from the back,
These women carry fissures on their skulls
Whose horror neither time nor bromide dulls.
But this is where my faith begins to waver,
For, more and more, free speech is out of favour,
As hissing hellcats labour to conflate
Divergent views with ‘phobias’ and Hate.
I worry that your principles will crumble
Once you’re confronted with the rough-and-tumble
Of blue-haired activists collecting scalps.
(Their stack, by now, looms taller than the Alps.)
These are the ones who’ll pressure you to serve
The Right-On Narrative and never swerve.
They’ll never rest until you take the knee
And hang your pronouns out for all to see.
They’ll claim to want to amplify your voice
But their opinions are the only choice.
Dear Stan, you’ve had your say about the Queen,
(A dummy spit unsettling to be seen)
But I’ll defend your right to give offense
To speak while making precious little sense.
But stay on guard around your PC chums
For they’ll abandon you when trouble comes,
Denouncing you without a second’s pause
If they perceive you’ve jeopardised the Cause.
And if, in time, you start to fear their rage,
That’s when they’ll really have you in a cage.
From there on, what is there to do but live
In faithful service of the Narrative?
In this dilemma, many think it shrewd
To shore up the buttresses of certitude,
Spending their time with fellow ‘true believers’
A mix of cranks and expert self-deceivers.
Thenceforth, they rush from diatribe to paean,
Aping the mindset of the Manichean.
But let me warn you of the hidden cost
Of thinking that your enemies lost
Or base or cracked or lacking in compassion,
A troglodyte that someone should refashion.
It taints the spirit with self-righteousness,
From where it plunges into spitefulness.
Incognizant that anything’s amiss,
You plummet further into the abyss.
Closing your eyes upon a world turned foul
You taunt the night with your demented howl.