Yesterday we challenged Crikey readers to pen a new Gettysburg Address for Australia 2007 — something to define the Australian moment and project the nation into a new unified destiny. Do it like Lincoln in 272 words and send it in to [email protected] before next Friday. The winner will be performed — if that’s the word — by former NSW premier and orator supreme Bob Carr on Radio National’s Late Night Live.
And here is a taste of the entries that arrived overnight:
John Goldbaum writes:
One gross three score and fifteen years ago our fathers sailed on a long Voyage from a distant Kingdom and brought forth on this continent a new Nation, conceived in Punishment, and dedicated to the proposition that Crime shall not pay.
Now we are engaged in a great Culture war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can progress to a new Enlightenment. We are met on a great battlefield of Ideas. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who wish to dwell in the Past. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But we can not Progress into the Future until we have acknowledged the Past and Repented our Mistakes and our Sins. The brave men and women, living and dead, who struggled here, must be vindicated and their Ideals and their Beliefs must be allowed to Triumph. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that this nation, under Reason, shall have a new birth of Freedom — that this nation shall extol the Rights of all Humans Beings to the pursuit of Happiness, Liberty and Equality — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
It has been time for too long. We can no longer pretend, for we have promised so many that we shall not forget.
The first Australians to defend their country fought gunpowder with spears, but did so with the passion, virtue and sacrifice of so many generations since. The enemy has changed colour and shape many times over, but the result of their battles is the burdensome opportunity that lies before us today.
The heroes of these generations died men fighting soldiers, and will forever be honoured for that. But our challenge is to understand that killing can never result in peace, for we will always find enemies among our own if we fail to deliver the freedom upon which the sacrifices of our fathers and grandfathers was predicated. And our opportunity is to look behind the face of our enemy, behind religion, race and culture, to the causes of anger and hatred in our own society.
We can no longer fight terrorism with war, for they nurture each other. We must fight it with respect.
We can no longer fight crime with vengeance, for they inspire one another. We must fight it with inclusion.
We can no longer fight poverty with welfare, for they go hand in hand.
We must fight it with education.
It is time for our democracy to deliver that for which so many Australians have died. This country has never been based on ideas of freedom. Yet freedom — social, cultural, political, economic — stands before us as an opportunity, the sum of the sacrifices of our heroes.
As a nation, we are the sum of each other.
Australia! We stand at a crossroads in our short history. A time when it is truly ours to decide what we may become.
Australia was founded and has since thrived upon a few basic principles. Work hard, protect your mates, and give all a fair go. Why is it now that these very ideals of being Australian are the things we will not protect?
We have instituted laws that take from a man any incentive to work hard amid job security.
We have thrown Australian troops into a battle for liberty, while at the same time leaving our own citizen locked in Guantanamo bay for five years, lacking that same liberty we supposedly hold so dear.
When asylum seekers came to our shores asking for protection and a chance, we instead offered them brick walls and razor wire.
We must do better!
Australia is not only made up of its beautiful landscapes and inspiring people. Australia is an idea. And an idea is only powerful if we enforce it with our steadfast will and our strength of actions!
We have heard our leaders tell us “it’s time” and “the things that unite us are stronger than the things that divide us”. These slogans should be more than a political banner. These slogans should be our moral compass and inspire our actions.
A country is only as strong as the people within it. Make this country strong again. Make this country something we can be proud of.
A country that is forged on a few basic principles, may in fact die without them.
Australia! Be silent no longer. Make this your country again.
Ten score and nineteen years ago Pommie gaolers dumped on this continent a new mob, completely lacking any historical affinity to the land and dedicated to using anything and everything to make a quid.
Now we are engaged in a great environmental war, testing whether this nation, so conceited and so desiccated can long endure. We are met on a great dusty field of that war. We are starting to see that our children may have to give their lives if we continue to live in the way to which we have become accustomed. It is altogether fitting and proper that we realise this.
But, in a larger sense we cannot continue to deforestate — we can’t continue open-cut mining — this ground. The men and women who made this continent their home for thousands of years are still here and could help us with land management if we bothered to listen. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here but it will never forget what we do here. It is for us now to accept our duty as the custodians of this landscape so that all those who gave their lives in its defense did not die so we could drink Coke.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that we reclaim control of this land, that we banish the buccaneers, that we reduce our consumption to a sustainable level — that we resolve never again to fall under the spell of bland small-minded yes men — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people becomes fair dinkum.
Battlefields are too often where great words are spoken. Where bullets break flesh, we try to find meaning in life’s most costly of tragedies, the deaths of the young. Rather, the battle that humankind faces time and again, is to recognise the prosperity of life itself, and to afford this gift to all; that they be free to share this great prosperity with their neighbours both near and far.
We must realise that kinship is not bound to our common beginnings and our lifeless conclusions. Together we face an uncertain future.
And where we have failed in the past, we must recognize our great responsibilities to our brothers and sisters, indigenous and non-indigenous, to our global habitat, and to the generations that will inherit our victories, and our mistakes.
We stand as a nation at a precipice. The open question is whether we may draw back from that drop, or whether the very ground upon which we stand has already begun to give way. For all the great words, this is a challenge we face as one, a challenge for which words cannot overcome. Rather this is a question over which we must all be prepared to lose some of our ground.
Some may say that we are a young nation, but history is both preface and postscript. Our story respectfully ponders those of indigenous and immigrant alike, stories that are centuries old. And though we may face what seems insurmountable, our resolve is tempered by human history. We have triumphed before, and must do so again, for our future as a nation, and that of humanity, depends on us now.