Sunday, 25 April 2010

It is Anzac Day

and, as it often does, it rained for Dawn services.
Anzac Day did not mean a lot to me as a child in the early part of my school life. We had the annual ritual of the story of "Simpson and his donkey" and a service in the school yard. That was followed by a "half-holiday" granted by the School Council. We just saw it as a story and a bit of time out of school.
In the mid-60's my father was appointed to a large school which was part of a "soldier-settlement" - farms allocated to returned service men who did not have other jobs to go to. It was one of those "good ideas" that turn out to be a disaster. The location was an island. The soil was poor. The water supply was inadequate. There were not enough support services. The men were physically and mentally unfit to farm and most of them had no background in farming. We had been there less than a week when I answered the 'phone to the sound of a frightened child desperate for help because his father was chasing his mother across the 'home paddock' with a red hot poker thinking she was the enemy.
Anzac Day really meant something there. Everyone turned out for the Dawn service whatever the weather. It was the first time in my life I saw grown men cry openly. The impact on me and my brother - in our teens - was immense.
Vietnam came a few years later and my brother, supported by the rest of us, put in his papers as a conscientious objector to that engagement. I rather suspect we are still on Asio's list of suspect citizens. We had a brick through the front window of our home at the time and visits from nameless officials. At my teacher training college I was 'invited' to a meeting with the principal and one of the nameless officials where it was suggested that my getting a job of any sort might depend on persuading my brother not to be one of the three lead motorcyclists in the demonstration that saw thousands of people rally against that war. I told them what I had witnessed a few short years before and walked out of the room. It would not have surprised me if I had been asked to leave but I was not. Did it affect my future career? Probably - but I can live with my conscience.
My father and my brother say they would defend their families and those who cannot defend themselves in the face of violence. My brother and my sister have brought their children up to believe the same thing. You do not do violence.
This morning in the faint light I thought of all that again. By the end of the service it is always lighter than it was at the beginning. It is the only way to think of these things.

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