Don has always been a prolific letter writer. In our scrapbook I have numerous letters to the editor that were printed, and a few copies of some that weren’t. He sent helpful suggestions for improvement, to people or institutions, on many occasions — as a result of which we have a vitriolic reply from poet Les Murray (Don loved Murray’s poem “The Whip” but suggested some other images that could have been included) and a huffy two page lecture from Art Gallery Director Edmund Capon (years ago, when Don’s comment that aboriginal art should have a more visible presence than down in the semi-basement did not endear).
Anyway, it seems that in this area as in many others, as Don is unable to do something, the mantle has fallen to me. I find myself writing letters to the editor about various issues quite frequently. Mostly none of them see the light of day.
However, last week I wrote to columnist Peter Fitzsimons, head of the Republican movement, avowed atheist, and one of the best columnists around. He had written a piece extolling the virtues of the Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injecting Centre and I wrote to him:
An avid reader of your columns, I respect your devout atheism but thought you might be broad-minded enough to acknowledge that the Kings Cross injecting room about which you were so affirming is actually run by the Uniting Church. To be accurate, it is run by “Uniting Care” the social justice arm of the Uniting Church.
Just thought it worth mentioning as I note that devout atheists seldom miss a chance to note the dreadful things that sometimes happen in the name of the church and so perhaps it is worth swallowing hard, gritting the teeth, and admitting that sometimes the church is doing something good.
I of course told Don what I had done and he was completely stoked. He beamed non-stop and asked me to read it again to him several times. And then, to his credit, Peter Fitzsimons did indeed acknowledge what I had written, and without naming me, the following week his column said this:
Thumbs up to injecting room
Have an educated guess how much flak I took last week for my contention that, despite how counter-intuitive it might seem, it actually IS the best health policy to give clean needles to pregnant 16-year-old drug addicts in the Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injecting Centre. (For, however appalling an act it is for the 16-year-old to so inject herself, the alternative is all too frequently for her to use infected, used needles in dark alleys – which is even worse for mother and foetus.)
The answer is, just about no flak. There were one or two narky and ignorant tweets, but 98 per cent of the reaction was regretful agreement. That is how far we have come and why it is not only moral madness, but political madness, for the Baird government to try to block access to the injecting centre to pregnant women. In terms of emails received, however, one lady did make a fair point.
“The Kings Cross injecting room,” she writes, “about which you were so affirming, is actually run by Uniting Care, the social justice arm of the Uniting Church. Just thought it worth mentioning as I note that devout atheists seldom miss a chance to note the dreadful things that sometimes happen in the name of the church and so perhaps it is worth swallowing hard, gritting the teeth, and admitting that sometimes the church is doing something good.”
Bravo, Uniting Church.
Don has glowed this whole week on account of the letter and response. When Luke the cleaner comes into his room with a mop, Don will say to him, Have you heard of Peter Fitzsimons?- read him the letters, Barb. When Mel brings in his tray with lunch, he wants me to read to her, and anyone else who wanders in.
The thing is, he now refers to it as “our” letter, and, Barb can you read that letter “we” wrote to Peter Fitzsimons, and his reply.
Which of course warms my heart and makes me think I should try to do “Don” things more often on his behalf.