How Not To Hate Your Nemisis

I was at a girlfriend’s birthday dinner, a small group of both parents and young adults. It must have been about 1988? The girls were down one end of the table, the parents at the other. One of the parents, a friend’s father, asked who I’d thought had been Australia’s best Prime Minister thus far – without hesitation I jumped in with “Gough Whitlam!” Their reaction was to erupt into hysterical laughter, as in thigh slapping hysterics. I couldn’t have chosen a more mismatched audience to share my view, a group of country farmers, ardent Malcolm Fraser supporters – the very man who’d asked for the sacking of Gough.

The thing is, I knew that Gough wasn’t “the best”, my parents had both discussed Gough’s economic inadequacies over the dinner table – but when it came to progressive politics as a young idealist, it was hard not to stand in awe of Gough’s optimism and enthusiasm.

Cate Blanchett was able to capture exactly why the death of Australia’s former Prime Minister meant so much to a child of our vintage. (Cate and I are the same age, that’s why we look like twins).

As an Aussie abroad I’ve watched from afar as my countrymen and women have taken a moment to reflect on the life of Gough Whitlam this week. I’ve read and listened to essays and articles from those who adored him and those who despised everything Gough stood for. But there was one speech that stood out more than others for me.

For those reading who are not Australian, nor of the complete understanding of how our political systems works  – I won’t go into great detail, but this clip is from someone from the opposing side, speaking of a relationship between two former Prime Ministers. Two Prime Ministers who had the ultimate showdown resulting in the end of a career for one, and perhaps a perpetual blot on the resume of the other.

Is there a bigger compliment than having someone who disagrees with your politics and ideals feel so affectionately towards you?

I’ve been thinking this week about my friend John. John and I have to agree to disagree when it comes to issues such as climate change and conservative politics. However, if you were to ask me for a list of my top 10 favourite people in the world, John would be there at the top end of the list. When I think of the true meaning of a gentleman, I picture John with his qualities of kindness, chivalry and honour. Politics has no place in friendships. We’re allowed to disagree, see the world differently, surely this is how we learn? By listening to another point of view?

At Gough Whitlam’s memorial this week I listened as the crowd boo’d opposing political members as they arrived, something I have no doubt that Gough with his visionary bipartisan attitude would have cringed at. A man who didn’t let hatred eat him away, as Malcolm Turnbull said an enhancer, enlarger, a man with a big vision.

Something we can also aspire to, whatever our political views.

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