… too much – one way or the other – how you choose to mark your Australia Day. It’s many things to many people and if there’s one thing I’d hope for all of us – it’d be that we continue to allow people to celebrate their Australianism’s in as many positive ways as they can. Unfortunately we have too many ‘muppets’ out there, spoiling this for everybody: they want to tell us just WHO is an Australian and who’s NOT!
The Australia Day before my son was born – I ventured out around the Swan River with a good friend who had also spent a number of years in the Defence Force of this country. I tripped around a young bloke full of what seemed to be good cheer and fun times, clipping him gently in the shoulder as he stumbled past me, recovering from a friendly tackle from one of his mates playing footy at the time. I turned to apologise and give him a friendly smile – only to cop this look of absolute venom as he spat at me:
“F@#$ing watch out you f@#$ing black c@$%! Why don’t you f$%^ off to where you came from?”
I was stunned for a moment – only a moment mind – because I was in that lad’s face before I could stop myself and before I realised – what was actually going on: “Where IS it you think I came from mate?”
I had caught the lad by surprise (me as well). His mates too. The didn’t move – so I pushed the point home:
“WHERE exactly mate?”
The lad hadn’t expected my voice to have the same accent as his at ALL. He hadn’t expected me to step in and challenge him (nor had I if I was to be honest) and he hadn’t expected that for that single moment – he’d be awfully alone. Like it or not, it had turned nasty in the blink of an eye and both of us were smack dab in the middle of it.
His mate’s began to rally themselves and my mate – unusually good at defusing moments such as these – stopped them in their tracks:
“Any of you lads served in the Military?” he asked quite disarmingly.
When no-one answered in the positive, he asked them another question. “Did any of your folks put a uniform on?” – no answer again, “Well – how about your grandparents eh – did they?”
At this stage he got a nod or two and followed up:
“So you’re grandparents probably served under that flag you’re flying there,” pointing to the esky pile that’s had become this little group’s ‘high ground’, ” and they probably saw some ugly things as a result of it yeah?”
The mood changed on that note – you could feel it toning down. My mate – a white lad I grew up with as a kid – simply pushed the point home.
“Don’t make an ugly moment happen for the wrong reason fellas. You know nothing about us and we know nothing about you. But we’ve also worn the uniform of this Country’s Defence Force’s and so have so many people of more races then you could possible name. You might want to think about that a bit yeah?!”
With that he pulled me away from the – rather sheepish young man now – and we both buggered off, before anyone else knew what was going on. I was shaking and apologising for acting badly and thinking how close we’d come to a really ugly scene with a dozen young men and their girlfriends.
As a result of that day and many similar smaller incidents (all local and around Perth in various places) I now don’t go out on Australia Day. I take my boys for the fireworks in places where small crowds are full of ‘grown-ups’ and I try to avoid drunk and angry young men trying to win back their Country, with venomous vitriol and drunken ludicrousness.
These young (and not so young) men and women are out there making our Australia Day something else entirely and they’re doing it in our name. Most reading this now will probably be those who aren’t in the same camp at this young man. But nearly all of us know someone like him. We all know people who share these views and most of us sit by and avoid challenging these people and allow this bulldust to grow.
If you’ve taken a stance against this type of behaviour – my hat off to you! I don’t expect it to be the kind I very stupidly partook in – I really don’t think that type of stance is necessary – but if you’ve simply stood up and questioned someone you know on their belief and comments – you’ve made more of a stance then most.
If you’r not this sort of person – please believe me when I say to you – I understand. It’s not an easy thing to do – challenging a person about the things they might believe in. But if you can do so – in the smallest possible way – sometimes it might surprise you and you might make a big, big change in how they then go on to see the world – in a good way.
If you can do this; question that one person you know and have them shift some, I’ll tell you now – you will have my gratitude and that of my sons, until our dying days. And somehow – I don’t think I’d be alone in that either.
We need you – we ALL need you!
Belongum – Out!