There have been two terrible tragedies involving the murders of young children in Australia this past week. The tragedies have been divided by the span of this wide continent. one here in WA, the other in Sydney.
Last night two young children were stabbed to death here in Perth’s northern suburbs, allegedly by their father. “Neighbours in a state of shock”, the online news outlets quoted.
And earlier this week in Sydney, the Manrique family of four all dead, including two young children with severe disabilities. Turns out the father (perhaps with the complicity of the mother), set up an elaborate poisonous gas system that killed the family in the house. There was talk of the stress the parents experienced because of their children, whose high needs were never offset by any glimmer of hope that their multiple and complicated conditions could improve or be alleviated.
“Neighbours in a state of shock,” as the online news outlets quoted.
But, apparently, precious few others are. Shocked that is. Disability advocates have expressed dismay at the muted, rather ho-hum response of the community to the murder/suicides in Sydney. It’s a far more muted response compared to the responses to what has happened on my side of the country.
Here’s mother of six, Samantha O’Connor, speaking to The Australian:
“I’ve read comments from people saying: ‘They were mute, they had autism, it must have been so hard to look after them, so we understand how you might want to kill them’. Why is this not being treated like any other case of straight-out domestic violence? Two children are dead and the police are not saying it was an accident, so somebody killed them, and yet we are all talking about it like it is OK.”
And we are. We are talking about this as if it is okay. Deathstyle is the new lifestyle. Where are the Christian voices who claim to speak for the voiceless in our culture? Why are these same voices not speaking out against this tragedy which took away two, you know, actual voiceless children? Who never spoke their entire lives, and seem to have precious few speaking up for them. Where are those who will speak up for them? And for such as them? Have such Christian voices been completely domesticated? Do they fear being rendered voiceless themselves should they break ranks with the progressive narrative on this one?
And what is this one? It’s this: We live in a culture of death. Of course you wouldn’t know that, so determined are we to have the times of our lives. We live in a culture of death that has concealed the pale green of death on its face with the gaudy foundation of good times. Hey it could even be the colour of smashed avocado. Or the paint colour for the new kitchen in the freshly renovated inner Sydney terrace.
Here’s another disabilities advocate, Briannon Lee:
“As a parent of three autistic children, their deaths hit me hard. Their childhood and adulthood has been taken away. Yet all that commentators care for is describing … how much of a burden they were: ‘severe’ ‘dumb’ ‘very high complex needs’.”
Why should we be surprised? We’ve normalised it at every ultrasound when we’re less than discretely offered the chance to find out if our unborn children have any syndromes, malaises, risks that we should know about. You know, just in case. Just in case what? Just in case we wish to prepare the house? Just in case we need to reorganise our aspirational lives – and downgrade our aspirations – for a disabled child? Just to prepare ourselves for the inevitably difficult years we have ahead of us?
Nope. Just in case we want to, like you know, get rid of it/her/him. And good Christians that we are we say “No, of course not”, and tell our friends – as we do – that we would never think of getting rid of our child, and shake our heads. And that’s good. But we’re not shocked. Not dismayed. Not deeply disturbed that we live in such an entrenched culture of death. We don’t walk away from that ultrasound profoundly grieved that it’s so matter of fact, so openly discussed, so optional in this options generation.
Killing people is going to become commonplace. Make no mistake about that. As with all things “progressive”, progress will sweep away the actual barriers, once it has swept away the emotional barriers. Which is, of course, is exactly what it is busy doing now. Reframing the narrative of the culture of death as the exact opposite, the culture of life. If “Love is Love” to the progressives, you can be sure that “Death is Life” will be the new mantra, the new aesthetic.
Bracket creep we call it. It’s like condoms. No! Really it is! No problems with condoms at all. But thirty years ago the barber swept the back of your neck, sprayed some lotion on your face, took off the cape from your shoulders, and discretely asked just before you got out of the chair, “And a little something for the weekend sir?” How cute!
Now it’s a veritable wall of thick/thin/extra-long/flavoured/glow in the dark /ribbed right next to the tampon section in Coles that you can see from the moon. Or from the baby goods section at least. That’s bracket creep for you.
And the bracket creep of death is bracketed by creeps. For every creepy, grumpy, bearded, angular “Dr Death” Philip Nitschke handing out how to kill yourself advice, we have a cuddly, funny, great-face-for-television Andrew Denton telling us that the public square is for secular opinions only, and advocating Go Gentle Australia. Just as creepy though. Those kids went gently all right, they just didn’t have a choice.
Nitschke put his hand up to take some blame for the tragedy in Sydney, admitting the Manrique family had contacted his group, Exit International (hey it’s not just local, it’s for everybody!) to order a copy of its book, The Peaceful Pill Handbook, which, if they’d realised they could get as a free PdF download.
But then he reneged. Turns out it was a completely different Manrique family in Sydney who requested the book. Phew! So that’s all right then. Not sure what’s going on with the Manrique clans, but perhaps friends and relatives of assorted Manrique families in Sydney should check up on them just to make sure they’re okay.
I guess we’ll see some Christian activism. Of course not. I read a Christian article recently that said that Christian young people should be discouraged from going on short term mission trips overseas and encouraged to join protest movements, specifically climate change protest movements.
In case you think otherwise, I think the climate is changing, and it’s a worry. How or why it’s changing, we’re not fully across it, but let’s not deny that it is. However the mantra I read is that we need to get climate change right for the sake of our great grandchildren. That sounds like the culture of life right there, yes?
On the surface it is. But here in this imminent frame, this secular space which, increasingly cannot tolerate an alternate voice in the public square, has the stench of death about it. Under that cute Denton-esque foundation, the sickly green shades of death linger. I can smell it. And we tolerate it. We wave our hands and go “Who’s to judge what someone else does?” or “I can understand why they’d do it.”
I can too. I can understand those questions. They’re the questions of a culture committed to untethered freedom, yet at one and the same time completely enslaved, as Scripture says, to the fear of death. Untethered freedom and abject terror. A heady combination. And with nothing transcendent in our culture to draw that sting, a feeble attempt at wresting back control is all that we are left with.
Heck, I don’t even know what the climate will be like for our great grandchildren, no one does. But I am pretty sure I know what the great grandchildren will be like who get to experience that climate. They won’t have Downs, they won’t have severe disabilities, they won’t have severe autism. They’ll be the well educated, well moralised, physically perfect specimens of a culture who will do anything to prolong the chimera of a culture of life, even if it means killing enough people in order to do so.