“Lest We Forget.” Those three words encompass the spirit of ANZAC day and conjure up pictures of heroism and valour in my mind. Images of young Australian men, dressed in army issue fatigues with rifles raised and firing, on a beach on the other side of the world. Away from family and the ones they loved, they fought and died for their homeland. Scared, tired and homesick they marched on, always forward, into the jaws of hell and the teeth of the enemy guns.
The Spirit Of ANZAC DAY
ANZAC day is a sober, solemn day. A day which reminds us that we and our close brothers and neighbours from New Zealand, paid a dear price for the freedoms we enjoy. A day to honour our fallen soldiers and remember what they fought for and the price they paid. ANZAC Day is a day to embrace our friends and loved ones and rejoice in being Australian, the lucky ones in our sun burnt country.
Beautiful Australia and the Cancer of Racism
Australia is a beautiful place. From the turquoise blue seas of far North Queensland to the red sands of the centre, to the cold and lofty Snowy Mountains, we are supremely fortunate to live in such a place where our rights and freedoms as humans are respected. We must always be humble and thankful for that and not take for granted our fortune.
That is why it pains me to see some of the antics my fellow Australians get up to on this day. ANZAC Day on Facebook makes me cringe as more and more people forget the soldiers and focus on the colour of people’s skin instead. ANZAC Day is fast becoming a day of binge drinking, bigotry, violence and racism, a day where Australia’s racist minority is let off its leash and allowed to run riot. This is a day which is supposed to be the anathema of violence, bigotry and oppression. When warnings like the below are needed it’s clear that something has gone wildly wrong.
He ( Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch ) also asked people to take it easy on the drink.
“This day is one of our most sacred days,” Mr Murdoch told reporters.
“It is a day to reflect, to commemorate, to remember – not to engage in alcohol-related behaviour and anti-social violence.” [ theaustralian.com.au ]
Of course, mainstream media never helps, especially when they run articles with hyperbolic and emotive headlines such as; Don’t Celebrate Anzac Day: Muslim Group:
Muslims should not celebrate Anzac day because it is a “superficial, jingoistic” date that marks Australian colonial aggression against the Muslim world, according to radical Muslim group Hizb ut Tahrir. [ smh.com.au ]
While the story itself is rather tame by the usual stands, headlines such as these don’t help the situation at all.
Whether you like it or not, Australia is a nation of immigrants and many different cultures. From the beginning our country has been founded on the principles of freedom of expression and a fair go for everyone. The colour of our skin determines nothing other than the degree of pigment in our skin and it makes me sad and angry to see the people striking out against others who are different. Our diverse multiculturalism is a pillar of Australian society and one that has allowed us to prosper on the world stage. We are a country where a hard day’s work earns a fair day’s pay and the days where skin colour mattered, or should, are far, far behind us.
Mustafa Kemel Ataturk, former Turkish President and Gallipoli veteran wrote this poem in honour of the ANZAC’s that fell at Gallipoli. Its spirit is true and honest and we would do well to remember these words in every day of our life:
“Those heroes that shed their blood
and lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country
therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
here in this country of ours…
You the mothers
who sent their sons from faraway countries
wipe away the tears.
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
and are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have
become our sons as well.”
“Lest We Forget”
So on this ANZAC Day put aside a minute your prejudices. Lay down your metaphorical guns and instead remember where we came from and who we are. Honour our soldiers and the sacrifices they made. Honour our brothers and sisters who have come to this country to share the Australian way and who have helped to build this nation through the work of their hands and the sweat on their backs and who have also fought and died for the Australian flag and for its people. Their skin colour or ethnicity matters not to the sacrifices they made so that you and I could bitch about them and their kin over Facebook.
They are our kin now and I will remember them.
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal,
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation,
And a glory that shines upon her tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables at home;
They have no lot in our labour of the daytime;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known,
As the stars are known to the night.
As the stars will be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.