By Natalie Sekulovska
Yassmin Abdel-Magied did nothing wrong on ANZAC Day.
I understand this may sit uncomfortably with some people, but hear me out.
We all know ANZAC Day is a time for remembrance. It’s the day we set aside to remember the men and women who died for this country, the sacrifices they made and the hurt they carried with them.
It’s the day we set aside to remember the families that were torn apart, senselessly and with no guilt or remorse expressed by those who started the carnage.
It’s a time to remember them, not to glorify war.
I’m sure we all agree with this.
Now, nowhere in her post did Ms Abdel-Magied contradict this sentiment. Nowhere in her post did she disrespect our servicemen and women, nor their families. Nowhere in her post did she take away from the recognition they deserve. Nowhere in her post did she minimise the significance of the sacrifice they made.
She didn’t negate the bravery of our ANZACs. If anything, she tried to encourage us to think critically about war and its place in our modern society, on a day we have actually set aside to reflect on war.
She didn’t negate the sacrifice they made for us. If anything, she recognised the profound pain war caused them, and the profound pain war continues to cause people.
So, why is that so controversial?
Well, let me start by telling you what isn’t controversial.
It isn’t controversial to think that war is terrible. It isn’t controversial to want war to stop. It isn’t controversial to not glorify the senseless waste of human life. It isn’t controversial to acknowledge that people are still, to this very day, being affected by the trauma of war. It isn’t controversial to call for action.
What is controversial is our government spinning a web of lies to continue the hurt experienced by those living in and fleeing from war even today. What is controversial is our government detaining refugees for doing absolutely nothing wrong.
What is controversial is that we value some lives and forget others, namely those suffering as a result of present-day conflicts. What is controversial is that we take pride in not having learnt anything from our past. Where is the uproar over this?
If we stop blindly hurling abuse at each other for being “un-Australian” for one second, we would see that this is what Ms Abdel-Magied actually meant.
It wasn’t to generate controversy. It wasn’t to spruik her own political agenda. Believe it or not, there are people out there who actually care and respect others.
I’m also severely disappointed in media who have labelled Ms Abdel-Magied as being “disrespectful” and “naïve”.
Disrespect isn’t when you call out your government and society for forgetting about their own silent victims of war. It’s when you say things like, “What do Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine, etc have to do with war?”
Naivety isn’t when you broach an important issue for discussion, hoping that one day, people will take it seriously. It’s when you say things like, “You shouldn’t politicise war”, when politicians have had the nerve to do just that for years.
If we remain ignorant and forget to learn from our mistakes, are we truly honouring our ANZACs? If we forget about the victims of our own present-day conflicts, why are we still pretending to care? We can’t cry about the trauma experienced by our own servicemen and women, when we continue to inflict the same devastation on people in the Middle East and in our offshore detention centres.
What’s the point of remembering if we don’t learn?
Yassmin Abdel-Magied didn’t say we shouldn’t commemorate our ANZACs. She wasn’t trying to make a political statement. She was simply showing she cares. She was simply recognising all victims of war. This includes our soldiers, past and present, as well as our refugees and displaced persons, past and present.
Her post was a reminder that war didn’t end with the World Wars. Nor did it end with Vietnam. It’s still reality for us, and I think sometimes we forget that.
Recognising that our servicemen and women fought (and still fight) for us means it’s high time we fight for something too.