It’s National Reconciliation Week and, in keeping with this year’s theme, I am trying to ground myself in truth. What this means for me is finally reading Convincing Ground by Bruce Pascoe, who has Bunurong and Cornish heritage. His book invites us to learn and acknowledge the truth of the frontier wars and genocide on which the modern nation of Australia is founded, much of which took place in our region. It’s hard but essential reading for those who want to face up to the truth of who we are, and for those who wonder why reconciliation is so important, or proves so elusive.
Pascoe suggests that, by acknowledging these truths, we might finally be able to move towards a state of mature nationhood: a nation which is not constantly hiding from itself and jumping at shadows, but instead is honest about who it is and where it has come from. As Pascoe writes, “The only impediment to accepting the full embrace of the country’s love is our inability to look over our shoulder, our failure to shape up to our lingering dread of exposure …”
Pascoe’s path winds right through the painful truths of suffering and death, of individuals, of clans and nations, but also of our illusions; yet it ends up with the promise that those who take this journey will know a deep and abiding love, of and for our country. On Saturday our Youth Group kids are watching The Princess Bride (“Death cannot stop true love…”), and perhaps in their discussion they can wrestle with Pascoe’s final rallying call to all Australians: “Nervous about true love? It does require selflessness and reckless courage, unstinting respect for each other, time and endurance … but it’s worth it; nations are built by it.”
I know that in one way or another most of us are facing up to the truth of dispossession: through hearing the experiences of Indigenous friends; through the stories we bear witness to through our work; through the books we read; through the shadows in our family histories. Perhaps this Sunday we can name some of these learnings together. And if anyone feels inspired to bring food from this land to our potluck meal – think kangaroo, muntries, pigface, saltbush, wattle seed … – go for it! I’ve bought a local smoked eel for the occasion. Because falling in love with our country means not only acknowledging the truth of our history, but also noticing and celebrating its gifts.
PS – If anyone is seeking a Bible study for Reconciliation Week, I suggest Lamentations, especially chapter 5. Read it alongside those stories you know of dispossession and genocide, and wonder, Who are the ‘us’? Who are the aliens and foreigners? And how might God guide a nation to the point where the ‘us’ will include every person?