The Nullabor Leper
The Deplorables Epic Road Trip
The people mover was new and the afternoon sun was deepening its maroon paint as the mother of these five children filled its boot with bags of shopping.
Around the RV her young children, still in their school uniforms, were playing in this tiny wheat town’s empty street, each one wearing their own personalised mask, and each mask firmly secured.
As I entered the store I saw, amongst the other masked shoppers and staff, the ghost of the young man who approached us at the Nullabor roadhouse.
Out there, in the middle of nowhere, the great plains only support a hand full of small distant anorexic trees, that’s what Nullabor means, ‘no trees,’ and there, this man, who was wearing a worn black overcoat, with its collar up to shield his skinny neck and his chin with its three days of stubble from the desert’s chilling wind, was shyly asking us what the banners on our truck were about.
We told him we were touring the country, capturing the stories of Australians who had the courage to speak, and that the mainstream media ignored. We wanted to add their voices to the narrative, for we believed that presently our greatest weapons were our voices. We were interested to hear how they had been affected by the restrictions of the last two years, and what their thoughts were of the current state of the country and where it was heading. We were also wanting to challenge the WA border. That’s where we were heading now.
That’s where I came from. I’m from Perth, he said. I’m trying to reach Brisbane. Do you think I’ll get into South Australia? I tried to reach there a few months ago but they turned me back at Ceduna. I had to drive all the way back to Perth. And his tone stated that he still couldn’t believe this.
After checking that no one else could hear, he said, low, I’m unvaccinated.
Same, we replied.
But this didn’t warm his spirit.
It’s the New World Order, he said. I’ve always known it was coming. I’ve been telling people for ages, but I just . . . I just never thought it would arrive.
He was heading to Brisbane. That’s where his elderly parents, Hungarian migrants, lived. Both in their eighties they were also unvaccinated and were calling what was happening in our country now, for how they saw it; Communism.
Together they had fled tyranny to offer their children a life where they could enjoy personal freedoms, and now here their son was a medical leper, a disenfranchised citizen on the run, from what he called a tyrannical state and unemployment, due to non-compliance, unsure if he could even reach them.
We talked some more, but he never relaxed. He was like a rabbit keeping all his senses primed for a fox or a hunter.
We gave him our fruit and vegetables and then I was back, over two thousand kilometers away, in this store, at the till, watching these masked children play, their eyes smiling above their masks, as their mother routinely loaded her car with their weekly shopping.
It made me realise what I already knew. Society is a load of people agreeing to a set of rules and laws, but now the rules that I grew up with had changed. And these changes included altering the meanings of words and phrases that I thought were incorruptible. Like ‘integrity,’ which now meant silent compliance. My Body My Choice now meant My Body Their Choice, apartheid was no longer segregation it was just the righteous punishment of the selfish, and bullying these selfish people was the decent thing to do, even if they were children. The new rules also were clear, if you were injured by the vaccine, the expected course of action was that you would keep that to yourself. Even if it killed a loved one, it was not socially acceptable for you to allow them to die in that truth. Incredibly, critical thinking, our pragmatic go to tool, so vital it could almost be called a survival instinct, had now been changed to ‘group think,’ which you could not question, and Freedom, our once glorious and abundant freedom, was now only available via subscription.
Also, these new rules had no space for empathy, for the sake of the community’s health, cold cruelty was now morally preferred.
And if for some reason you decided you couldn’t abide by these new rules, then you were travelling with this dispossessed man, crossing an ancient land, this baron plain that’s culture was now difficult to recognise and heading towards a future you didn’t want to reach, while out of your windows these masked children ran around their mother and continued to laugh as they played.
Michael Gray Griffith