Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Henry Lawson's Answer to Chet Richards

Chet Richards, at Defense and the National Interest, responding to a post by John Robb, asks How afraid should we be?. He states:

So one question to ask every candidate for every office in the land is: If there is an incident, a really bad incident, are you prepared to live in your home, go to work, go shopping, travel, go to church, and so on, with no more security than the incumbent has right now?

With all due respects, this sounds too much like Bush's post-9/11 injunction that we all should go shopping.

Instead I suggest that we learn from the writings of the Australian writer and poet, Henry Lawson. One of Australia's two greatest writers, ( Banjo Patterson, author of Waltzing Matilda, being the other) Lawson wrote of the grit and humor Australians demonstrated when confronting the overwhelming challenges posed by the Outback.

Perhaps Lawson's most famous short sstory is "The Drover's Wife." Lawson portrays an event in the life of a wife of a cattle drover who is absent on a multi-year cattle drive. Alone in the arid country with her mangy dog in her isolated shack, she cares for her small children. A snake has invaded her shack. (Snakes are no joke in Australia; it has snakes 100 times more venomous than the King Cobra. ) Finally, she locates and kills it. The story ends:

She lifts the mangled reptile on the point of her stick, carries it to the fire, and throws it in; then piles on the wood and watches the snake burn. The boy and the dog watch too. She lays her hand on the dog's head, and all the fierce, angry light dies out of his yellow eyes. The younger children are quieted, and presently go to sleep. The dirty-legged boy stands for a moment in his shirt, watching the fire. Presently he looks up at her, sees the tears in her eyes, and, throwing his arms around her neck exclaims:
"Mother, I won't never go drovin' blarst me if I do!"
And she hugs him to her worn-out breast and kisses him; and they sit thus together while the sickly daylight breaks over the bush.

This kind of courage is what we need.

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