The one day of the year (2012)

Written in April 2012

In Australia there is ANZAC Day on which
politicians hide behind patriots.
They talk about the sacrifice of war
someone else’s sacrifice
some other family’s sacrifice.
They talk about Gallipoli and the Western Front
with young men marching off to the trenches.
They recall the Somme and the Dardanelles.
They talk about this being the “War to end Wars”
oblivious to the fact that:
“Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity.”
They forget the slime, the stench – the utter awfulness
of the fighting and the dying and the struggle to survive.
They don’t remind us of the need to remember
the buggery, the rape, the duplicity and desperateness,
nor the cowardice and connivance of the officer class.
Fortunately all those who fought in that war are dead
there are only the ghosts to remember the truth
and ghosts find no need to lie.

Then the “glorious dead” are metamorphosed,
before our very eyes, into the “fallen”
and there we are fighting along the ridges of Kokoda
alongside us are Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels carrying the wounded.
The unacknowledged racism in this name for Papuans
is only matched by our continuing failure
to ensure the development of Papua New Guinea.

Politicians don’t mention the civilian deaths
at Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
They remember the London Blitz
but not the saturation bombing of Dresden.
They seem to forget our massacres
on the Korean peninsular.
Nor do they remember our murdering
Malaysian Aborigines for supporting communists.
Our betrayal of West Papuan independence
when Indonesia demanded integration
seems also to have escaped their attention.
They don’t remember us defoliating Vietnam
with dioxin which still induces birth defects
in children whose mothers weren’t born
when we invaded their country.
The several invasions of Iraq
warrant only cursory attention,
the naval blockades and sanctions
we helped impose on the people of Iraq
which lead to a million deaths
don’t get a mention.
The Oil we helped liberate
one barrel at a time is not referred to.
The drone attacks in Pakistan
and Afghanistan slip beneath the radar;
as do the accidental deaths of civilians
due to SAS intelligence errors.
Improvised explosive devices
and Afghan Army capacity building
are worthy of a mention.

No one dares suggest we have lost this war
nor that we are running for the exits
before the Taliban can cut our throats.

On ANZAC Day we are all heroes.
There is a story of a bible in Afghanistan
taken there by the fifth generation of soldiers
from the one family.
The Crusade is alive and well.
“Onward Christian soldiers
Marching off to war
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before”.

Christ save me from your followers
you are after all the one who said
“Blessed are the meek for they shall
inherit the earth.”
It was you who praised the peacemakers.
Swords into ploughshares.

On ANZAC Day it would be wise
to forget about Gallipoli
and other overseas adventures.
We should instead turn our attention to
the Australian war.
Yes, the one between the original owners
and the settlers who invaded this land.
Yes, that race war started in 1788
and it is still being waged.
Just this year
police shot two young Aborigines
in Kings Cross in Sydney.
Aborigines, on average, continue to die
17 years younger than other Australians.
They die because of our neglect.
They die because of our indifference.
They die because of our avarice.

We need to end this race war – to make amends.
We need to fight the fight for decency, justice and freedom.
We need to build a country from the city to the bush
in which all can find a place at the table;
where men and women, young and old,
first fleeters, Aborigines, migrants and asylum seekers
all have food and shelter
we need to end the helter skelter rush for riches by the few
at the expense of the many – to learn and care and do what’s fair.