January 26: National Forgiveness Day?
History is not up for debate. There are historical facts that we can't run from, can't hide from, can't simply change because horrific acts were committed and feelings are sure to be hurt in remembering the deeds of the past that could have been handled so much better if societies weren’t so often run by psychopaths with more passion for self-interest than the betterment of mankind. This is nothing new.
The plight of the First Australians, the Indigenous Peoples of this Great Southern Land is nothing new. Colonizing Queen worshippers in red coats and stupid hats with the Lord on their side and the Devil in the souls plundered every corner of the Earth their ships could sail them to, then plonked down flags on other people’s property and said if you don’t like it, you’re dead meat, savage. Is that up for debate? Of course not. The people in charge of the First Fleet, which was merely a handful of people, were some of the most vile human beings in history.
What can we do now? We can run around and scream blue murder, screeching Invasion Day till we run out of breath. Does that achieve anything? You think Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, Blair Cottrell and their platoon of moronic hypocrites are going to respond well to being yelled at like that? No way. But all those same muppets of Abbott’s ilk share one common high and mighty soap box…Christianity. Now, I’m not a Christian but, to quote my favourite song of all time, Jesus was way cool. And the greatest thing that wonderful Jew preached back in his heyday was forgiveness. And that goes both ways. You can forgive and you can also ask for forgiveness.
It’s clear to me that Aboriginal Australians were here first and not only that, they had a truly amazing culture, the richest of histories, the dreamtime stories of wonder and are the oldest and most civilised people on the planet. Thanks purely to my own self-interest it's hard, if not impossible, for me to be totally distraught with the white invaders though, because without them I would most likely be shivering in Dublin, pasty as a ghost and having no idea of the ocean, the total ecstasy of surfing, the pure delight of falling asleep in a pool of sweat, sunburnt like a lobster with saltwater stoke all through my being. But, understanding history, appreciating the unifying power of Jesus’ teachings, here’s what I would ask of every Indigenous Australian, please forgive me. I wasn’t part of the genocide but people that look like me and share a lot of my DNA were, and they were on the wrong side of history. They acted with impunity to your ancestors who did nothing to deserve the hideous treatment they received.
Please forgive me. It's not enough for my people to say sorry. I need your forgiveness. And if Tony Abbott et al are man enough and Christian enough to acknowledge the wrongs of our ancestors and plead for your forgiveness, please take the high road and extend the olive branch. We celebrate Anzac Day. Another day when Pommy overlords sent brave men to certain death for a war we had no place being a part of. Is that something worth celebrating? Probably not. What would I know? But the day serves as a very important reminder that atrocious deeds are part and parcel of human nature and we need to be steadfast in making sure we do everything we can to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. And to do so necessitates the remembering of the past, regardless how painful, regardless how regrettable, regardless how avoidable the pain and hurt could have been if man weren’t so prone to wretched acts.
Happy Australia Day for whenever you choose to celebrate it. I celebrate it every day. I love this place and simply can't imagine my life without Australian sand between my toes and the glorious Sun shining down on my freckly skin. But if January 26 causes hurt to the First Australians, the people who have 100,000 years of history on this Great Southern Land while I only have a mere 3 generations of connection to the Australian soil, well that seems pretty obvious to me who gets to decide what date Australia Day falls on. The First Australians make the call. And I will stand by any choice they make.
And together, let’s make the future as bright as possible for every single Australian.
Liam J Carroll is the author of Slippery, a story set in Southeast Asia about capitalism on steroids, it makes the world of Gordon Gecko look positively gentlemanly, and Sweet Dreams of Fanta, a nostalgic romp in time back to the Sydney of 1988, seen through the eyes of a freckly, moon-faced, seven year old, Fanta addict and devoted Balmain Tigers lover.