How can I celebrate?

by Veronica Foale on January 26, 2014

in Poetry

How can I celebrate on this day,
this Australia day.

When the date marks the invasion of the land,
the rape, the pillage, the slavery.
How can I celebrate our sunburned country,
when we built it on the back
of such misery.

How can I celebrate?

When we treat our indigenous people,
like they ought to be grateful
for what we do to them.
Sit there and thank the white men,
for stealing your land, your children, your souls.
Your culture.
You’ve got McDonalds now,
and hey, progress right?
No.

When we lock up refugees in places akin to concentration camps.
When we dehumanise and demonise anyone
who isn’t white and shouting
‘Straya cunt.

When the racism is so ingrained, people honestly believe
today is a day for equality.

It is not,
and I cannot celebrate.

For how can I,
when our government accidentally invades Indonesia,
and then says
Whoops, sorry mate, totes an accident.
We didn’t think you’d notice.
When we bully, and coerce, and push and strangle.

How can I celebrate?

When the flag so many have wrapped around their shoulders
makes me cringe,
with its message of patriotism and imperialism.
The sublte whisper of
kill the brown people, let them die, no one wants them, send them back.
A Union Jack on every corner,
God Save The Queen.

How can I be part of this,
when the shame of being Australian
eats at me, making my stomach roil.

I am disgusted,
At the things we do
in the name of this country.

nikki (@suburp) January 26, 2014 at 12:20 pm

As a German, I am quite familiar with the struggles on patriotism many Australians who’s thoughts and feelings I share and appreciate. Like you.
Most Germans had problems even with their new flag as long as 60 years after the 3rd Reich (flagmania first struck joyfully for the 2006 world cup..)
But I will say that while, especially recently, and to a much greater extent than I ever imagined, Australia, that is certain Australians, has shown an ugly face of bigotry, racism, protectionism and a clear lack of really dealing with the past and working on conciliation, compensation and integration of the first AUSTRALIANS….
there are many people that see all these things, who demand change, who actively work on it and make things happen.
And Australia is a democracy, the people – you! – are free to change things, and – although things at time feel very dark right now – this is not a static situation.
National holidays can be conflicted, and the date, the flag, the focus on the white colonial part of this day makes it harder for many to make it theirs. But do not leave it to the bigoted bogans, blue bred and proud of something they simply were born into.
Celebrate what makes Australia so great through inclusion of those that have come to help make this country so lucky, celebrate the ancient history, the art and culture of Aboriginals, tell your kids about them today, make it history day. Let’s make it a day to go forward in history, not back..
I am not celebrating with those flagclad “Australians” today, but I DO celebrate Australia, the country I chose over others to live in, the country I am still discovering and that, in the end has an equally twisted relationship with patriotism as any other country in the world. Yes, they could change the date, the flag and how on earth can a country that is an ex colony feel truely independent when they still belong to that queen…but it’s a long, sometimes painful progress. At least YOU are aware of it and part of it. So you are a critical, modern Australian I as an immigrant can celebrate today :)

Krista Petrauskas January 26, 2014 at 12:34 pm

You and Nikki have covered it with your powerful poignant, rousing words. I am moved by your poem and her story.

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