And yet, we know each other. If not by face, or voice, or history, then by heart.
Dear, dear Stranger.
Would that my country could be what you set your compass for. Freedom. Life truly lived. Open arms for the persecuted. In the evilest of hours, safe harbour.
I – like so many here – think about you often. Not in five-minute evening-newscast first-world flash-guilt. Not through click-like hit-send temporary-hash-tag love. But un-fleetingly. Inescapably. Like the history of this land. Like truth. Like honesty. Like being.
You are both this country’s potential for greatness and compassion, and our piteous first-world shame.
When we hate you, we truly hate each other.
And as we break you, we also break ourselves.
Dear Stranger, who is not so strange to me at all.
I am sorry that you came to us for help, and we could not find it in ourselves to be what both of us needed. Strong. Rational. Compassionate. Brave. Kind. Generous. Smart.
I’m sorry we have not found, and are not searching hard enough, for a more just way. And I am sorry we have not demanded this of those who run our country – effectively at least.
I am sorry we have voted into office the heartless and the hopeless, time and again.
I am sorry we have incarcerated you and your kin, for hundreds upon hundreds of no-end-in-sight days.
I am sorry for the teary jail-house tableaus you must watch your little ones sketch, through the haze. I am sorry for their wilting. I am sorry for their wasting. I am sorry we are taking their childhoods away.
I see your children in my children’s faces. Separate only by the circumstance of birth. And yet by bombs, brute-force, barbed wire. And yet by war, rage, guns and genocide. And now by guards. By walls. By fear. By self-interest, and razor wire.
I am sorry for your hell-on-earth. Both here, and that which you fled.
I am sorry the cries of we who care so much are not loud enough; not insistent enough; often go unheard. I am sorry for our fight-tiredness, which by comparison is not any kind of tiredness at all.
Australia’s fear has turned us into that which we fear most.
We, the terrorisers.
We, the inhumane.
We, the monstrous.
We, the disregarders of human life.
I know not what you’ve run from, nor how the journey has been. But I choose to believe there is hope for you, in this beautiful, ancient black land. This land, scorched and song-lined and stolen. Still bitter with hatred, and misunderstanding. Wide, and rich, and bounteous. But unequal, unjust and afraid. This warm, wise multi-culture: haphazard and eager and bright. This bloody-historied homeland. We will somehow put things right.
My Dear, we are not Strangers.
For I know we know each other.
I – and so many – we are the country you set your compass for.
We are freedom. Life truly lived. Open arms, for the persecuted. And in the evilest of hours, safe harbour.
Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.
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