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The one day of the year (23/4/2011)
That is the title of a controversial play by Australian playwright Alan Seymour. It was first performed in 1961 and created a storm because it was seen as critical of ANZAC day, Australia's day for remembering those who served and died in the wars that the country has participated in. One of the characters expressed the opinion that the day shouldn't be used to celebrate sacrifice but to reflect on nationalism and its dangers. Since that time we have become very comfortable with what the day means to us, and the play is studied in schools.
Fifty years on, someone else has asked us to think about what the day means and the freedoms that were purchased by the lives of those who served and died. Jim Wallace, chief executive of the Australian Christian Lobby, posted the following message to Twitter on the very day itself:
Just hope that as we remember Servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for - wasn't gay marriage and Islamic!
Wallace has offered what he claims is an apology but he hasn't bothered to remove the message from Twitter. In fact, he hasn't really apologised at all, just apologised for saying it on ANZAC Day as if it wouldn't be offensive on any other day. I have an uncle I never met because he didn't come back from Borneo; my father served in a medical unit and could not go into the Australian War Memorial in Canberra because it reminded him of men who died in front of him. These men, and the tens of thousands of others who served, didn't go to war over who could marry whom or which god people should pray to, although they did fight for the right for stupid people like Jim Wallace to say offensive things.
This bigot manages to get the ear of senior politicians, but perhaps now they will think twice before taking any notice of what he says. This is the 21st century, and it is about time that hateful, bigoted medieval thinking was given the respect it deserves. Which is none.