ANZAC Day.

“They march to honour sacrifice…”

April 25th is ANZAC Day.

It’s the day that unites Australians and New Zealanders in remembering the sacrifices made to preserve our freedom and way of life by all Australian and New Zealander soldiers and  their allies, not just those who died at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915.

Last year, on ANZAC Day, I wrote this poem. I published it on my blog then, and it appears in my book, ‘Nova’.

I wanted to share it with you again today, because it’s so important that we remember exactly what our rights and freedoms as Australians have cost. They didn’t just happen. Time and time again, young men and women have served our nation by fighting for the freedoms and values that we hold so dear. Many have lost their lives. Many have been injured – and not just physically. And many families still grieve for those who never returned.

‘Remembrance’ does not tell the whole story. It’s a glimpse of men and women, young and old, military and civilian, gathered together on ANZAC Day to pay tribute to those who served, and particularly those who gave their lives for their country.

Our country.

My country.

I can never repay that debt. I am not expected to.
But I can pay my own tribute.

Lest We Forget.

Promo Nova Remembrance ANZAC DAY

PSA: How to proceed if we disagree.

Please, be very, very careful about what you defend.
More importantly, please be careful about how you defend it.

I don’t take sides in politics.
I take sides in life.
 
I side against prejudice, hatred, family violence, oppression and injustice.
 
Therefore, I will state quite openly that I do not endorse Trump as POTUS. At the same time, I do not endorse Madonna’s comments either. There are Australian politicians and various other public identities that I do not endorse, for exactly the same reasons.
 
If something I post offends you because you don’t agree politically, stop and think before you jump down my throat and give me grief about it.
Am I saying “I hate this person”? No.
I’ll be saying “I don’t like this action or these words”.
They’re very different things.
Chances are, if someone on the other “side” did or said that, you’d criticise them for it, too.
 
Consider that I will call *anyone* out on bullying, lying to the nation/world, or inciting mistrust, hatred and violence. I will not accept misogyny, sexism, sizeism, ageism or racism as “humour” or “lighthearted”. 
Today, it might be someone you like. Tomorrow, it might be the person you don’t like.
 
Please, be very, very careful about what you defend. More importantly, please be careful about how you defend it.
 
I am not your enemy unless you make that choice.
fyi-card-6

A horrible chain of events occurred in Melbourne today. A man drove a car into a group of people, killing some and injuring others, including children.  Some of the injured remain in a critical condition. 

It wasn’t terrorism. Just an angry man in a car. 

Funny, though. Nobody has mentioned his religion, and there have been no popular calls for his particular ethnic group to explain or apologise for his actions. 

Nor should they be expected to. Ever. 

It’s his responsibility, not theirs. 

But you can bet your sweet patootie that it would be a different story if he were a Muslim or a recent immigrant from the Middle East. 

We’re not judgemental, though. Nor racist. Mmmkay?

Spotting the problem.

And again… there are public health alerts in Melbourne for a measles epidemic.

And again… there are public health alerts in Melbourne for a measles epidemic.  Seriously?

What part of “if you’re sick, stay home!” do people not understand?

After shaking my head at the lead story about two kids who have travelled internationally, gone shopping, and heaven knows what else for the past two weeks while they were highly contagious, I wrote this.

Look out, look out, the spots are about
Because some folks won’t immunise their kids,
But when the “did nots” find their kids have the spots

They’ll be sorry and wish that they did.
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I’ve heard all the arguments against vaccination, and I simply do not believe them.

As someone with compromised immunity due to a chronic illness, I am certainly glad that my parents made me have that needle that made me squawk for two seconds as a child. After 29 years of teaching, it’s probably the reason I’m still alive.

Love Trumps Hate. 

In the aftermath of the US election, it’s important to remember that there’s anger on both sides. Many, many people in the US, as well as elsewhere, feel marginalised and overlooked. For some, it’s been many years of actually being treated that way. For others, it’s hopes and dreams that have been kept out of reach by social forces that they haven’t been able to change or address. You only have to study a little bit of US history to see those things happening.

I think of this election as a pressure cooker – after a long time on “high”, the thing blew its lid off and left a heck of a mess when it did.

We must remember that people don’t always vote from a perspective of good policy. People vote because they long for a change, they yearn to be heard… or at least to feel as though they have been heard. Sometimes it’s a reaction to something as visceral as revulsion over what one candidate or the other has done or is accused of doing. There was a whole lot of all of that in this election.

This election in itself won’t fix anything. A new president, regardless of identity, is a figurehead. The real problems lie in the structure of the society under that leader. The anger and polarisation of the American society will only get worse while people engage in anger, vilification and distrust – of their leaders, yes, but particularly of each other.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t hold their government and its actions to account. I’m a very firm believer in doing that. But let’s not destroy each other in the process. Let’s ensure that our commentary is focused on what needs to happen, what needs to change, and how we can work together to achieve that.

Personally, I don’t think either candidate was a good choice for uniting the country, or solving the underlying problems. That has to come from the people, and it starts with one, then two, then more, choosing to build rather than tear down.
I pray for America, and I pray for the world that still looks to her for military and international leadership. I pray for Australia, because we’re guilty of all the same things.

Today, I choose love. I choose encouragement. I choose peace. I choose friendship. I choose positive over negative. I choose proactive over passive.

Will you join me? Will you work to make a difference, too?

An Armchair Spectator’s Perspective.

I love watching the Olympics on TV. The achievements of the competitors are amazing, and I can only imagine what it must feel like to be part of the atmosphere there with the cheering, whistling, and excitement of each event.

I am getting increasingly frustrated with the TV and radio commentators, though. I don’t know what it’s like in other nations, but the Australian media seem to be frequently making remarks about our competitors not winning medals when they were “expected to”, with the implication that they’re letting us down somehow.

Let’s stop and think about that for a moment.
Whose expectations and assumptions are we working on?
Most certainly, not mine.

I don’t think the competitors have those expectations, either. I have no doubt they have hopes and aspirations as they pursue their dreams of victory and success. They put everything into it that they can. Nobody goes in half-arsed and decides while competing that it doesn’t matter so much.

It’s important to remember that every single one of them is a champion for just getting there. They’ve beaten a bunch of other competitors who wanted to be there too. They’ve achieved personal bests and performed feats that are pretty much impossible for most of us ordinary folk.

Our commentators aren’t doing anyone any favours by adding more pressure with the weight of comments that imply that someone was expected to win, and didn’t. Going into the Olympics, there were reports of Australia hoping for a certain number of medals, particularly in certain events. It wasn’t the athletes or swimmers who expressed those goals, it was the media. And how the people “back home” interpret the results is strongly influenced by the ways in which the events and results are reported on and discussed in the media.

It’s easy to want to win everything. It’s easy to consider our own nation a “favourite” among others. We need to keep an open mind, though, and remember that everyone in other countries has the same hopes as we do for our competitors. Just because someone holds a world record doesn’t give them any entitlement to win that event again.  As Australian swimmer Bronte Barratt said on Thursday before the Women’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay, “As we’ve proven many times before, if you’ve got a lane, you’ve got a chance, so we’ve got a great chance.”  She’s absolutely right. Everyone has an equal chance once they make the final.

As for the competitors, they want to do their best. Of course they’d love to win, and they’ll be disappointed when they don’t. But to be there is a victory in itself, and we shouldn’t let any commentator diminish that. And when the race is over, we should be praising and encouraging, not criticising.

 

The Day After Election Day. 

It seems, at this point in time, that Australia may have a hung parliament. 
The Greens, the Nick Xenophon team and other independents are likely to hold the balance of power. Some see that as unstable. 
I see that as the voice of ordinary Australians exerting itself over the clash and hullabaloo of the major parties fighting each other for power, often at the expense of the little guys. 

For as long as it remains a possibility, I am still hopeful of a change of leadership. If those standing up for compassion, justice and a positive response to the challenges of living in the 21st century are able to have a significant influence, even better.

Double Disillusion.

So, it’s on.

Australians will head to the polls on July 2nd in an election that will see a “spill and refill” of all the seats in both houses of the Australian Parliament. For those unfamiliar with the Australian political system, this process is called a “double dissolution election”.

I had to laugh, though, when an ABC commentator today commented that “it’s going to be a very long campaign”. Has he not seen what’s going on in America? Months and months of campaigning just to obtain a party’s nomination to run for President, which means even more months of campaigning.

Fact is, I’m very interested in politics, but I don’t like any of the choices, either in America or here in Australia.

Why can’t we have honest, hard-working people who just want to serve their country as candidates for leadership? What happened to the statesman who believed in doing the right thing morally, both individually and as a nation?

Both countries have, in the past, had leaders who stood up for what was right and made vital changes in one way or another. Think of Lincoln standing against slavery, or JFK challenging the people so directly on issues of civil rights. Think of Whitlam putting an end to the White Australia policy. Whether or not one agreed with them, then or now, those men stood up for what they believed was morally correct for their country.

Contrast that with what we see today. People hungry for power, and willing to sell their souls to the devil to get it. “Campaigning” means bludgeoning one another with lies or, at best, insinuations. It’s not about policy or what the people want any more, it’s about being the last man, or woman, standing in a very personal and sometimes excruciating competition.

So often, I watch and listen aghast as they deliver speech after speech full of vitriol. Some speak hatred and intolerance. Some barely have any policies on anything much at all – who am I kidding? Why let policy and standards get in the way of politics? Candidates mock and discredit each other in the false belief that it makes them look better, but it only serves to demean themselves. Muckraking and sledging are no way to win respect. I just don’t understand why more people can’t see through them.

I’m so tired of the modern political game. Give me a candidate I can believe in. Give me policies that don’t involve vilifying or punishing an entire group of people because of the actions of a few. Give me someone I can vote for without killing part of my own soul.

You bet!

Am I tired of seeing ads for betting on sporting events every time I turn the TV on to watch the tennis, football, or any other kind of sporting event?  You bet.
Does it make me angry? You bet.

It’s not just that I am completely, totally, and irrevocably uninterested in gambling. Frankly, I fear for a society that cannot enjoy sporting competitions without feeling the need to place a bet on the outcome.
I fear for a society which is so willing to both promote and engage in an activity which brings so much grief to so many of its people.

I’m angry at the way in which gambling is promoted when people are losing homes, families, jobs, and relationships because of their gambling addictions.
Sure, it’s not compulsory. Nobody makes them gamble. But they do, and it causes incredible pain and destruction in their lives.
The ads on TV that offer help for gambling addicts are vastly outnumbered by the ads for gambling opportunities.

I’m angry at the way gambling is normalised in the minds of our children and young people.  I can’t watch a game of football or tennis, or any prime time TV show, without seeing ads for online betting, mobile phone apps for betting, or some kind of lottery. This presents a very clear and dangerous message to our youth: gambling is fun, gambling is fine, and it will solve all your money problems.  Obviously, that isn’t true, but it’s hard to demonstrate that to a 13 year old.

I’m angry at the greed of the companies that promote gambling, and are more than happy to take money from those who can’t afford it to further line their already luxuriously-lined pockets.
And I’m angry at the government for allowing this to happen, simply because they make good revenue on the taxes and fees that are paid.

So, no. I won’t be putting a bet on my favourite player or team. I won’t be playing the pokies when I go to a pub or club for dinner. And I will explain the dangers of gambling, and the lies of the advertising that promotes it, to my 13 year old and my students in the hope of keeping them from getting sucked into the vortex of the gambling world.

You can bet on that.

 

 

Don’t knock the country town!

Occasionally I experience the discomfort of hearing people laugh, or at least smirk, at the town I live in because it’s small, rural, and offers less than the bigger cities.

It’s not surprising that this gets my hackles up.
Our little town of 1800 people has more to offer than most people realise.

We have doctors. We have our own pharmacy, fully stocked hardware store that also sells building supplies and pet supplies, and a newsagent/stationer that also sells lottery tickets, toys and gifts.
We have two boutique gift stores, a clothing store, lawyers and accountants, and a fantastic hairdresser.
We have a large supermarket, two banks, a top notch bakery, a cafe, an Asian dine in/takeaway restaurant, two other places for “fast food”, a real estate agent, a laundromat, and a butcher,
You can buy furniture, flooring, curtains, bedding and upholstery supplies.
There are two places to get fuel or and three where you can get service for your car. There’s a place that sells tools, trailers, and automotive/engineering supplies. You can get your tyres changed and your wheels aligned and balanced at three different places in town.
And that’s not even starting on the number of plumbers, electricians, and other tradies around.

There’s a pub for getting a drink or a good meal, or hosting a party or event in. There are also two rather lovely bed&breakfast establishments.

We’ve got a miniature railway, an historical dairy park, a go-kart racing track, a skate park, and a dam for fishing in, complete with geese and ducks. There are two big parks to play in. There’s a golf course, and a golf club that serves great meals and drinks.

We’ve got a footy/cricket oval, tennis courts and netball courts. The footy team go alright, and win their share of games and finals matches. We’ve also got both an outdoor and an indoor swimming pool!

We have a police station, and police officers who are active and involved in the community in positive and proactive ways. They’re helpful when you need them, they work to keep us all safe, and we don’t have to live in fear of harassment or prejudice. In fact, I don’t think there’s ever been a police shooting in this town.

The schools here are full of kids. Really full. There’s no danger of the schools being closed, or teachers being out of work.

We’re only ten minutes away from an excellent hospital, and 45 away from a really big one with all the fancy bits and pieces.

We have people of varying faiths and ethnic backgrounds, living in harmony with one another. Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, atheists, agnostics, JWs and whatever other faiths exist here, all get along just fine, because we’re neighbours and that’s the way it’s meant to be.

People greet each other in the street, and say hello, and wave as they drive past. When someone is in need of help, they get helped. Our healthy collection of churches and service clubs make sure of that.

And we have Christmas music playing in the street – not just Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph, either. They play songs about the birth of Jesus, and the wonder of God’s love for the world. It’s true that “Winter Wonderland” was slightly out of place in yesterday’s summer temperatures, but I know I’m not the only one who yearns to be back in a place they love where it is winter at the moment, or who is, in reality, dreaming of a white Christmas.

Christmas is celebrated in town with activities in the local park, followed by Carols by Candlelight, where hundreds of people gather to sing and celebrate together, on the Sunday evening before Christmas.

We also have Easter celebrations where the churches in town join together and worship Christ as Saviour in public, and plant a cross in the park to remind people that the true meaning of Christmas is actually Easter.

We also celebrate Spring with a big town festival, including parades, art exhibitions, rubber duck races on the dam, and lots of other merriment.

Nobody is offended. Nobody hates on others because they don’t agree. People just keep on smiling, and waving, and saying hello, because that’s what we do.

This town should be the envy of anyone who lives in a place where even one of those things doesn’t happen.

On top of all that, we’ve got fresh air, beautiful farmland scenery, rivers and creeks, and the amazing Great Ocean Road and beaches galore within an hour’s drive.

People shouldn’t be knocking my town. They’re just jealous and don’t even realise it.