Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Nelson's Liberals : Sorry, We Still Won't Say Sorry

With the 'New' Liberals me-tooing on gay rights, canning the election-losing bits of WorkChoices, ratifying Kyoto and acknowledging that Australians had stopped listening to John Howard's ideas, about the only key issue they've got left that separates from Rudd Labor is the Nelson-led objection to saying "Sorry" to the Aboriginal people for past crimes and injustices.

Nelson's explanation that they shouldn't have to apologise for something they didn't actually do, because none of them were born during the worst of the Aboriginal land-stealing, massacres, rapes and slavery, is both sad and bizarre. That Nelson's Liberals won't say "Sorry" because they fear an onslaught of compensation claims is cold, calculating and downright offensive to most Aborigines.

The "Sorry, No Sorry" position now hangs over Nelson's Liberals like a curse. During the 2004 election, an Aboriginal elder pointed a bone at Howard, cursing him. It clearly took a few years for the curse to come to fruition.

But it will keep acting on Nelson's Liberals until they follow the will of the majority of Australians and make this modest, and painless, gesture of reconciliation.

Philip Adams points out here that you cannot claim the 'Feel The Pride' parts of our generations-past history, Gallipoli for example, and then refuse to claim the dark and ugly parts as well :

The brave bits of history, the proud moments belong to us all and we collectively bathe in the glory. It's the nasty bits of the past we don't acknowledge. They had nothing to do with us. They were no part of our business.

This is a lopsided view of history. Let us share in past glories while shunning past guilts. Moreover, we will do our best to deny that they happened. Enter the historical revisionism of a Keith Windschuttle. Massacres of Abos? Where? When? Show us the documents! Show us the receipts for the corpses! If there's no paperwork, it never happened. Oral histories of Aborigines? Vivid, detailed accounts of slaughter and atrocities can be discounted. They're not worth the paper they're not written on. No need for sorries there.

Howard's classic cherry-picking of 'We Own This' bit of history but 'We Don't Want That' should be left behind with the (hopefully) old Liberal Party, and its blinkered view of this nation's history, he led to such a shattering defeat ten days ago.

More from Adams :
(Howard's Liberals) want to choose the bits where our ancestors behaved decently, bravely, selflessly, and turn them into mythology, sentiment and, from time to time, the worst sort of patriotic pap. Look at us! Look who were are! In the same breath they turn their backs on our shames and crimes. They've got nothing to do with us. We weren't there. We hadn't been born. Sorry, Brendan, but that's not on.

Britain has to live with the potato famine in Ireland, Germany with the Holocaust, Japan with Manchuria, Turkey with the Armenian genocide and the US with slavery. You may be able to mount a convincing case that Australia's history, colonial as well as recent, in regard to Aborigines hardly compares. But the atrocities and tragedies occurred and continue to affect Aboriginal lives and Australia's sense of itself. And saying sorry is such a small thing.