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Byron Shire
September 21, 2021

S Sorrensen’s Here & Now: Museum to die for

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Image S Sorrensen

My place. Anzac Day, 7.30am

Here we go again…

I can hear Turnbull on the radio, his whine mixing with the tolling of the bellbirds. Both are death knells, but bellbirds have a sweeter tone.

Turnbull’s in Villers-Bretonneux, France, opening an overseas Australian war museum, the Sir John Monash Centre. (It cost nearly $100 million.) Meanwhile, in Australia, plans are afoot to extend the Australian War Memorial (about $500 million). Anzac is a thriving industry.

His voice drones on about war with the same sincerity that tells us that coal is good, refugees are bad and the rich need a tax break.

It makes me angry. I want to hit something. Luckily, I have a hammer.

I’m making steps for my shack under the cliffs. Of course, there is already a step of sorts there, but it’s as dodgy as a pollie’s waffle – an 8×3 plank on two tree stumps. After snapping my achilles tendon on this step a year ago, I’m determined to make real steps. Today. (I don’t act hastily.)

The squawking of opportunistic politicians that dominates Anzac Day these days distracts our attention away from the reality: the callous disregard Australian governments have for human life. They send young people to kill other young people in far-off lands like France, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam. War is a horror show choreographed by older men in expensive suits, far from the blood. We shouldn’t forget that.

Despite the chanting of ‘Lest we forget’ by young Australians draped in Chinese-made Australian flags, we do forget. There’s political and commercial potential in the militarisation of our national psyche. (Arms dealing means jobs, right?)

We forget that our young men died in WWI, not defending Australia, but defending Britain. We didn’t learn. Our soldiers continue to die in, and for, other countries.

To hear these politicians, these well-heeled killers, prattle on about honour and sacrifice just makes me… Luckily, I have a saw, and steps to build.

Usually, when you make steps, you use stringers. That’s a building term, but, because I’m not really a builder, stringers are beyond me. And, seeing as there are only two treads (another building term) in my staircase, I’m going to make frames with 3x2s (left over from a stud wall), onto which I will attach the two treads. Clear?

Anyway, I can hammer and drill my way through the frustration I feel as this country, which has the opportunity to build a visionary democracy using its untapped wealth of history, stumbles down the track of deliberate forgetting, simplistic populism and corporate convenience.

To spend a hundred million dollars in France – to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on extending the Australian war museum (while still totally neglecting the only war Australians fought on Australian soil against invasion) – only highlights the Anzac hypocrisy.

There are many returned soldiers in the community struggling with war-induced traumas inflicted upon them by impoverished leadership. That money, the people’s money, would be better used helping those soldiers. That would be showing true respect. That would be honouring all soldiers who served. That would be not forgetting the real message of Anzac Day.

I have the 3x2s on the sawhorses. I have marked out the cuts. My circular saw is ready. I pull on the cord of the generator (my solar regulator cannot handle power saws)…

Nothing. It doesn’t start. Bellbird knell and Turnbull whine still pollute the air. I check the exhaust. Mud wasp nest. I scrape it out.

There are real battles to be fought in this country – Indigenous neglect, climate change, housing crisis – but the government, while applauding the bravery of those it sends to war, is a coward and avoids those battles at all cost.

I pull the cord again. Success. Noise.

Ah, Turnbull gone.

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