Cry My Beloved Country

Posted by Jenny on Mar 3, 2012 in Snippets |

There are times in our lives when we suddenly realize a building we thought sound has been eaten out by termites, the solid ground we are standing on is about to collapse  or that our home  is not as safe haven we imagined it to be. I can still remember my disbelief as a young newly qualified doctor when a  patient -  a big, muscular, tatooed and gruff wharfie – related  stories about police brutality and corruption.  Brought up to respect and to believe in authority I found these stories hard to credit, yet  a couple of years later his tales of betrayal were confirmed in the media.  While a bank may go bankrupt overnight or a cliff collapse in seconds, the white anting or undermining of institutions and structures takes a lot longer than the final, dramatic collapse.  As Casting Crowns sing in Slow Fade, “People never crumble in a day”!    Nor do nations.

The poem Cry My Beloved Country is written in response to the paper, “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” by Alberto Giubilini and  Francesca Minerva.   I find their insistence on the moral defensiveness of  terminating the life of a healthy newborn on the basis of an undefined emotional or financial threat to family welfare to be truly horrifying. Even they admit that “it is hard to exactly determine when a subject starts or ceases to be a ‘person’” given their vague functional definition of personhood (limited to those who can attribute value to their own existence).  In my mind this begs the question – where will the line stretch to next time and who will it tag next for involuntary termination? And what sort of society are we where it is less morally objectionable to kill a vulnerable child than an adult.  In true double speak style worthy of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four or the Gilbert and Sullivan’s  The Mikado, Giubilin and Minerva state that we would not have been harmed if our parents had decided to kill us as an unborn or just born child because they would have harmed someone who actually doesn’t exist (a “potential” rather than an “actual” person).   This is not how it seems to the men and women who have in fact surivived their parents attempt kill them in utero.

Yet the genesis of this poem has been also been drawn from a slow attrition  of events and viewpoints over the last several months to years. From Richard Dawkins claiming that religious parents  teaching their children about God is the equivalent of child abuse in The God Delusion and that it is not necessary to engage in dialogue with people of faith because by definiton they have proved themselves to be stupid (BBC The Four Horseman); to hear of similar views aggressively paroted to a friend by her family; to pondering the profit motivated media push of unrealistic canons of beauty on our children at younger and younger ages;  to the scapegoating of asylum seekers; to the furor that has surrounded recent public figures like Melissa Tankard Reist,  whose considerable research was recently dismissed out of hand by the simple strategem of  supposedly “outing” her as a “fundamentalist” Christain and for this to be labelled as character assanination!

On Friday morning, as I visualised the prospect of healthy babies put down like unwanted puppies, I could only weep.  This poem is an outporuing of those tears.

Cry My Beloved Country

Cry my beloved country.
Cry as the hoary walls slide into the foaming Sea.
The corrosive waves of doubt and anger eat away
at the base of the white cliffs along the shoreline.
Day after day the foundations are weakened.
The foam of scepticism floats in the whipping wind;
The tainted salt rusts the walls
and encrusts the stained glass windows.

“We must be understanding, We must be tolerant,
We are not like the ancients.
We are rational, urbane, superior.
We do not persecute or start religious wars.
We are not small minded.
We do not cramp other people’s freedom.
Don’t worry, the building is solid
and only a bright future for our country can we see.”

Cry my beloved country
Cry for the innocent that are slaughtered
and caste into the forgotten sea.
Cry as lives are broken to fuel the fires of mammon,
As the earth is stripped, and nations impoverished,
as fugitives from danger are incarcerated,
and young girls – and boys – starve and expose themselves
in the halls of plenty to conform to a celluloid image.

“We know there is no God.
We are modern not superstitious!
Don’t tell us fairy tales about a God who creates
or of a first century Jew who rose from the dead.
We know the source of all evil –
It is faith, blind faith in the ridiculous.
We are the creators of our own image and meaning.
And what a Brave New World our country will be.”

Cry my beloved country
Cry as life is cheapened and the lives of the unwanted –
the too old, too sick, too inconvenient –
are swept away by the raging sea.
Cry as the cries of the coerced, the broken and the sorrowing
are smothered in censorship and outrage.
And the definitions of unworthy and not human are stretched
to eventually engulf you and me.

“We will not listen to your shrill crying.
We are the champions of free speech (that is plain to see)
And you have no right to speak here.
Go back to your little, cramped ghettos!
Get out of the public sphere!
We believe it is the right of every child to choose what they believe;
that is why your views must be silenced.
Then what a Bright new country ours will be.”

Cry my beloved country.
Cry in bitterness and sorrow for a turning of the soul.
Cry that human value and dignity,
Imaged in the love and power of the Creator
may no longer be sold for a blood red lentil stew of licence.
Cry that the stony hearts may be transplanted,
the foundations restored and the windows gleam bright in the sunlight.
May our country be a haven for the weak and broken hearted,
A light house of agape love then would it be.

Jeanette O’Hagan
Friday, 2 March 2012


Giubilini, A. &  Minerva, F, (23 February 2012), After-birth abortion: why should the baby live? In Journal of Medical Ethics,, acc 2 March 2012

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