BY RICHARD WHITE
Where’s the drama? Where’s the gut-wrenching truth?
These thoughts go through my mind, distractedly, at the beginning of Sunday Mass.
‘Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault . . .’ Embarrassing formulas, devoid of passion and devoid of meaning!
I let the thoughts go and eventually relax in the rhythm of the Sunday Eucharist.
But, somewhere, somehow a seed has been planted. The reality of sin and repentance, the possibility of a bloodily real return to new life confronts me in a secular parable, the ABC series Redfern Now.
The programme I remember most vividly was about an Aboriginal policeman and the death of a young Aboriginal man ‘in custody’.
There was no bashing in the cells. The young man was hurt before he was arrested.
He became distressed while being held overnight and called to the two officers, one Aboriginal, one white, for help. They ignored his cries, for various reasons.
By the time they went to him, it was too late.
The family of the deceased man accepted the assurance of the policeman (that one of them knew) that he had died peacefully. They accepted, too, that his injuries had been sustained in a fight earlier in the night. Later, at their request, they were shown video footage of how he really died.
The black policeman is abused and shunned, by the family and by the community. He had lied to them, not to save them pain, but to save himself.
He had failed in his duty of care and had been dissuaded from helping by anger with the prisoner and urgings of his colleague – ‘It’s an act. Don’t take any notice.’ He had failed. He had sinned.
After the funeral, family and friends gathered at the young man’s mother’s house, his home. The community was there, grieving, comforting. The policeman lived up the street. His door was closed, his blinds drawn. He could hear the noise from down the street. He made a decision.
When the man walked into the narrow corridor of the terrace house there were gasps and muttering. He got the response he was expecting.
His hardly uttered expressions of sympathy were brushed aside. The mother vented her anger and hurt. He stood there, accepting, no excuses. When he turned to go, he was knocked to the floor, bleeding. The woman yelled at him, no softness in her voice, ‘Get up! Our mob needs you!’
There was no easy grace here, no acknowledgement of genuine contrition and courage. There was a vigorous, no-nonsense acknowledgement of his belonging and an equally vigorous commissioning – ‘Don’t mess around. You have work to do!’
Parables die from explanation and application. This superbly acted drama got under my skin. That is all that needs saying.
I was left with questions about my own courage and contrition.
To what extent am I capable of confronting the destructive effect of my choices? To what extent am I capable to going back to my family, friends, colleagues, community . . . and confessing I have sinned?
Richard White blogs from Cootamundra in southern NSW.
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