by Greg Spearritt
Driving to an Australia Day function last night I was surprised by the number of cars on the road with small Australian flags fluttering from their windows. As I see it, the waving of little Australian flags is - ironically - unAustralian.
As reported on the PM's website, "The Australian Government encourages the flying of the Australian National Flag by all Australians and is committed to promoting pride in the flag." Honestly, though: if you see someone flying an Aussie flag in their front yard you have to suspect they're a kangaroo short in the top paddock. Or they're a diehard faithful remnant of the One Nation party.
To be sure, at times of manufactured nationalist fervour such as the Sydney Olympics, extraverted national pride is to be expected. But the brandishing on Australia Day of tiny plastic made-in-China Aussie flags is yet another sign - along with the 'Candy Bar' at the movies and the absurd but increasingly common 'Drug Stores' popping up like magic mushies after rain - that we have willingly imbibed far too much garish American culture.
Perhaps I'm just one of those who should, like the troublesome Aborigines who see January 26 as Invasion Day, go back where we came from if we don't like it. That would be big beautiful downtown Chinchilla on Queensland's Darling Downs for me. Trouble is, they're probably even waving flags there today.
I've also thought that this waving of the Aussie flag has too many correlations with the heart-on-the-sleeve patriotism that we see our American cousins do every evening on the television. However, I do remember the pride with which Canadians flew their Maple Leaf flag when I spent a year there on teaching-exchange in 1981.
It was also about the time that the debate started to rage about whether we needed a new Australian flag that made us stand out as more than an outpost of a faded empire.
Do any of you remember the push for that awful boxing kangaroo flag to become our national flag after the 1983 America's Cup victory? Harold Scruby of the one-member (:-)) Pedestrian Council of NSW, was also heavily involved with this and the Ausflag group.
It's not the flag waving that disturbs me; rather it is the way in which it has been captured by the more mindless members of the "Australia - love it or leave it" set, who then assume that you agree with their white-supremacist views.
There are several dimensions to the problem of course. Part is that we have allowed these types of people to flourish and "own" flag waving. Another part is that it also includes elements of white-supremacist thinking which tends to ignore both Aboriginal and multicultural sensitivities. I blame John Howard, in particular, for this for failing to condemn Pauline Hanson and her One Nation followers immediately she began her racist rantings.
As a five-year old I stood proudly at the side of the road as our new Queen drove past on her first Australian visit with a small (Australian-made) Aussie flag in my hand. How did we allow the loonies to take over?
Posted by Jim Norman
I think it's all a reflection of people's desire to believe in something and then to demonstrate that belief in some way.
Usually harmless enough. Certainly it gets taken over by some loonies - but that doesn't diminish the value of the demonstration to the person concerned.
To the extent that it indicates a cultural colonialism by the US, I get annoyed. But we can't be certain that this is the main motivation underpinning each individual's action in this matter.
Posted by Scott McKenzie
Aggressive, in-your-face nationalism (one car I saw bristled with at least 8 flags) was typical of Pauline Hansen and the ONP, but I'd hate to see it accepted as the Australian way. I see more dignity and genuine Aussie identity in taking the piss out of such pretentions.
I am proud to be Australian - exactly because we don't 'blow our own trumpet' and because of our egalitarian streak and our pragmatism.
Posted by Greg Spearritt
I have a community vegetable garden on the block behind mine, which lends a peaceful, satisfying dimension to my life (snippets of conversation re. compost and soil and carrots come wafting over my back fence). However, on Australia Day when I sat down to my breakfast and looked out to my backyard, I was dismayed to see that some otherwise-acceptable community gardener had erected a flag to mark the occasion.
However, my back fence is a high one so not all of the flag was visible to me. In fact, all I could see from my breakfast table on Australia Day was the Union Jack. Says it all, really, doesn't it? Well, most of it. I also agree with Greg about the in-your-face stuff. I lived in the US for 4 years in the 1980s and was appalled at the flag-waving there. Never thought we'd see it here too.
Posted by Cordelia Hull
I do not agree that a small flag on cars is bad.
Posted by helen mason
I have to agree. When I was younger, the Australian flag meant something different to what it does now. And it is precisely because of people who use it as a representation of the racist 'Australia - love it or leave it policy'. Just the other day in fact I was driving along in Sydney, and I see someone with the number plate 'iloveoz' (or something tot hat affect), an 'Australia - love it or leave it' sticker and 2 Australian flags in the back windows. It's not hard to see why the flag waving has become a One nation/white surpemacist salute.
Posted by IM
Helen, it's not about something being 'bad'! Quite frankly I cringe at the Australian flag waving that seems to be happening on every fourth car I see. I certainly didn't grow up with it. A good barbie with the family and friends fairly muched typified our Australian day celebration - and probably a trip to the beach. One only has to look at the percentage of American tv on free to air channels - and Americanism elsewhere to also understand where popular culture gets their ideas from. We are being 'Americanised' at a frightening rate, while also failing to understand how difference and diversity are an extremely important and valued part of Australian culture. Flag flying from cars in many ways represents ignorance - of Australian history, what Australia day means to different cultures, and our continuing place in the creation of that culture. You won't see an Australian flag flying from my car. But that doesn't mean I'm not proud to be an Australian.
Posted by RB