My family is not an especially close one. Part of the reason for this is that my immediate family migrated to Australia from the UK very early in my life, and so there has never been an extended family network in easy proximity to celebrate special occasions, much less have casual visits with or share baby sitting duties. But even if we had remained in the UK, it isn’t certain that the sense of family would have been much stronger. Perhaps on my mother’s side, I would have grown up knowing my grandparents and my aunt and uncle, even had the opportunity to fuss over my younger cousin when he was born. On my father’s side, however, the disconnection would likely have remained the same. His family was a mangle of half-siblings and transient father-figures, which he distanced himself from as much as possible, evidenced most clearly in his decision to move his own family to Australia.
I’m mentioning this history now for several reasons. The first is the last minute decision by my brother, S, and his wife, I, to visit Brisbane from Melbourne for a week over Christmas. The second is the recent return to Brisbane from Toowoomba of my sister, F’s family (including the adorable Hannah). There has been a glut of family interaction over the Christmas and New Year period, which may not be unusual for most, but after a conversation I had with D, one of my office-mates, just before Christmas, I have concluded that it is unusual for my family. After some expert questioning from D, I told her the story of my family and she expressed mystification about the apparent lack of bonding between the members of my family. To some extent I agree with her observation, especially when I think of the parent-children bonds. Between the siblings, however, there are some strong bonds, although certainly not between all of us.
At any rate, the time spent with the various members of my family over this holiday period provided the opportunity for me to find out some more things about them. Whether this will effect the forging of stronger bonds between us is not likely, for the examples I’m about to relate are not really flattering. I suppose they’re things I’ve discovered over the last few days that mystified me and I need to express them to understand them as part of me or else conclude that there is some merit in the cabbage-patch theory of reproduction.
We were half-watching the news one evening, when it was reported that Saddam Hussein had been sentenced to death and so would be hanged. My mother responded with a jubilant cheer. I was surprised. I asked her if she was for the death penalty. She said she was for some people. I expressed my puzzlement because I had spoken to my sister F, who is Christian—born-again, like my mother—about the subject of the death penalty before. F had been quite adamant that anyone who was a Christian would be against the death penalty, if only on the grounds that it is for God to decide who lives and dies, not human beings or the governments, democratic or otherwise, of which they are a part.
When I’d had that conversation with F, I had also expressed surprise. At the time I was thinking about George W. Bush, who has often spoken about his faith in Jesus Christ, and the stance of his administration on the death penalty when he was the Governor of Texas. I’m sure I read something somewhere that credited his leadership as one that presided over a record number of state-sponsored executions in the US. I seem to recall that F made a disapproving moue and questioned the authenticity of Bush’s Christianity. I don’t know about any deficit of authenticity, but perhaps it isn’t too much of a stretch to suggest that Bush has Christian fundamentalist leanings, along with those who are prepared to kill because they are against abortion.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that my mother has some sympathy with George W. Bush, she has always been conservative in her politics, but I thought, perhaps naïvely, that her conversion to Christianity would somehow temper those more extreme political views, which have allowed her to express views about various groups of people, that just shock me with their intolerance. I thought that maybe she would at least ask herself in a non-ironic, Christian Socialist sense, ‘What would Jesus do?’.
To Be Continued...