Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's Sorry Day!

I took an extended route to work this morning, so that I could study the vibe at the Tent Embassy, which has been rapidly expanding this week in anticipation of the Prime Minister's apology to Aboriginal people for the acts committed long ago, in good faith but misguidedly so, against many of their people. I was a bit late (on account of my watch deciding to lose a few minutes at some point during the night), so that, when I was walking past, the apology was already underway - was, in fact, being broadcast at high volume so it could be clearly heard, depending on tree obstruction and wind direction, from at least as far as the High Court - and the Tent Embassy residents had made their way already up to the lawns of Parliament House, along with a steady stream of people from, as they say, "all walks of life", whom I saw from the bus. Traffic was also congested, or as congested as it can really get in the Nation's Capital. Even the workers at the new National Portrait Gallery stopped to listen.

The apology was made. From what I heard, it was an understated but gracious speech. At the end of it, the world didn't end. A terribly misguided policy had been, over a number of years, carried out against certain segments of a small but significant minority of the Australian people. It was latterly discovered and investigated, and an apology recommended. It is difficult to see how such an apology could be resisted, and yet resisted it was. The new Prime Minister deserves credit for so promptly doing what his predecessor could not.

Now we can all, as they also say, "move on". My feeling is that the apology will be good not only for those to whom it was directed by also for the rest of us. (I'm not being facetious in saying that I feel better knowing it has been made.) There can't be too many people today who hold the view that removing people from their mothers on account of the colour of their skin is sound policy. That being so, there is no reason why a collective expression of (belated) sorrow should be construed as amounting to an admission of present-day individual guilt or responsibility, or any other narrow-minded legalistic kind of analysis. Shit does happen, and it never hurt anybody to hear someone say "sorry".