After the booing

Dear Sor Juana,

The juxtaposition of your days of silence at the end of your life compared to your early days of vocalising your knowledge and sharing your thoughts in words reminds me this week of the balance of hearing and speaking.

Voicing your opinions, find our own voice, listen to the voices of others, hearing ourselves into speech or song and making spaces for voices to be heard, adding your voice to others- all ways to celebrate the voice and equally silence can be deafening.

This week our country has been in an uproar with the sound of booing and bullying of an elite athlete, poised against his silence and absence from the conversation. Our nation faces facts about its colonial history, about power, inclusion and exclusion and polarisation.

As far as the North Pole is from the South I hear reactions in the public spaces of trains, trams, salons, cafes and at pedestrian crossings. Racism’s slip is showing and in some of those conversations the slip is long, visible and glowing.   The storm clouds over us this week are being blown away by the voices of those who are standing with Adam Goodes, 2014 Australian of the Year.   It will be cheers and solidarity that will be heard the next time he takes to the field – and I hope he does – so he can have the memory of the boos replaced by cheers. Adam Goodes is one in a long tradition of others such as Nicky Winmar and Michael Long who have stood before him on the sporting field strong and proud of their cultural heritage. They are among the bright stars who rise to shine and teach us about cultural pride, racism and extremism.

How we listen and how we speak to one another is at the heart. I was fortunate to hear Grant Poulson and Liz Skelton recently share their lessons and open up their conversation for others to hear their journey on how they listened to one another as black and white and not letting each other leave the conversation and hang in with all its messiness. (You can download their book for free here.)

Having courage to speak needs to be matched by others have the fortitude and discipline to be silent – deep down I think it is this pairing of silence and speaking that is central to reconciliation in our one on one relationships and as a country. Each day we are being invited into conversations of our hearts through to the big national building conversations we need to have to heal and hold one another.  This (football) season offers a time, in the great tradition of Ecclesiasticus, to be silent and a time to speak.

Adam Goodes

Adam Goodes

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