by Ross Sharp

Years ago.

John Howard’s war on refugees is in full swing, there are children in camps, the foreigners are muck, they’ll kill us all, and our very own blackfellas want to take our backyards from us and barbecue our pasty, pure white babies on the Weber.

What country is this?

The Sydney Morning Herald run an edition with a wrap-around cover featuring thumbnail photographs of the refugee children we’ve shoved into camps, their ages range from baby to teen, and I sit on the train to work, seething, looking at these pages and feeling like I’ve just been punched in the face.

I get to work, and fire off a letter to the editor, the first time I’d ever sent a letter to a newspaper, and they publish it. It was sent from another computer, I don’t have a copy, but it went a little like this …

“If my objections to the institutionalisation of child abuse in this country as a so-called “security measure” mark me a Howard-hater, then I’m just fine with that.”

… It becomes a regular habit over the next few years, this writing of letters and their occasional publication, not so much now.

But it’s the NOISE.

Every day it seems, some new loudmouthed halfwit slouches into view to proudly bellow it’s bogan pride at all and sundry, “We’re just sayin’ what people are ‘fraid to say”, which is, in essence “We hate niggers and we hate wogs and they should all fuck off and die and if they don’t we’ll kill ‘em”.

Alan Jones approves.

Stan Zemanek nods his agreement.

He’s dead, Zemanek. Brain tumour.

One night, all these many years ago, I’m standing outside the cinema complex in George Street, Sydney, saying goodnight to a friend after we’ve caught up for dinner, I hail a cab, one pulls over, I get in.

Two things strike me.

The driver, his skin is indistinguishable from the night.

And he’s listening to commercial talkback radio. Stan Zemanek.

Why, I have no idea, but it strikes me as … incongruous, to say the least.

Blah, blah, blah, goes this vile noise in the background, “Boats! Refugees! Terror! Illegals! What’s becoming of our country! Send them all back!” Blah, blah, blah, I’m not listening to this shit, I start talking to the driver.

Small talk. “How’s work?”, “Busy night?”, that type of thing.

He tells me he is from Somalia, maybe somewhere else, but some hellhole, and has been here a little while now.

I wish he’d turn the fucking radio off. The NOISE.

I ask him what he makes of this place so far. What is it he likes, if anything.

“The peace”, he says, “Very peaceful here. I like that.”

I have been given perspective.

“Very peaceful here”, he said.

I suspect he would know what peace is, this man.

The rest of us? Not so much …