Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Australia's Unlikely New Son Of The Soil

Our Australian friend Barbara was sad about leaving the U.S. today after a visit of several months, but was looking forward to flying into the eye of the Julian Assange Storm back home Down Under.

Australians have an outsized affection for outlaws, not surprising when you consider that the country was founded in 1788 largely on the backs of convicts transported from England. Some 160,000 convicts in all settled there over the next century, and it is a point of pride among many Aussies to say they have convict blood in their family tree.

I'll leave to you to decide whether Assange, a native of Queensland in northeast Australia, is an outlaw. I myself think absolutely not, but the roughshod way he has been treated by an embarrassed U.S. government has raised the hackles of Aussies from the prime minister on down, and he is being compared favorably to notorious Aussie outlaw Ned Kelly.

Kelly, born in 1855, was the bushranger son of an Irish convict, considered in life to be a cold-blooded killer but in death and the intervening decades to be a folk hero and symbol of Irish-Australian resistance against oppression by the British ruling class, for his defiance of the colonial authorities.

Kelly was dressed in home-made plate metal armor and a helmet for his final violent confrontation with police after a two-year dragnet, portrayed by none other than Mick Jagger in Ned Kelly, a truly awful 1970 movie, took place in June 1880. He was hanged for murder murder at Old Melbourne Gaol in November 1880.

Swaraaj Chauhan, The Moderate Voice's international columnist, notes that Assange is considered a son of the soil. And that from Aussies' vantage point halfway around the world, the U.S.'s treatment of him is an outrage. No, make that a bloody outrage.

IMAGE: "The Trial (of Ned Kelly)" by Sidney Nolan

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