Anzac Day - a time of jingoes, drongos & remembrance
You'd think that the national day of commemorating those who served their country would be one of unity. But in Australia, Anzac Day has somehow morphed into a brazen display of nationalism that is increasingly empowering racists, bigots and jingoists.
Certainly many people who attend Anzac Day ceremonies do so to truly commemorate those who've served and to appreciate the freedoms that Australia enjoys as a result of the sacrifice of the few for the benefit of the many.
Considering that Anzac Day is a day of remembrance, it seems bizarre that so many got so upset about one tweet from an ABC employee. The tweet was not sent while she was at work. The ABC smartly decided there was no case to answer. She hadn't milked the public purse in order to send the tweet.
The employee in question is Yassmin Abdel-Mageid, member of the Council for Multi-cultural Australia, 2015 Queensland Australian of the Year and founder of Youth Without Borders (Australia). Her tweet was:
'LEST. WE. FORGET. (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine ...)
Within moments of it being posted, the howls of the offended could be heard reverberating around the nation. Yassmin promptly deleted the tweet and apologised. Contrast this with right-wing commentators who, when advised their work is offensive or even inaccurate, refuse to apologise, but instead stand on their digs and claim their freedom of speech is under attack.
The tweet though played into the hands of bigots because not only is Yassmin a Muslim, she also works for the ABC which is under constant attack from conservatives who see the national broadcaster as a socialist mouthpiece. These conservatives believe they are the defenders of free speech, yet want to shut down any dissenting opinion or fact that might be expressed on the ABC.
The hypocrisy of people being offended by Yassmin's tweet could not be clearer. It was only a few weeks ago that Australia's right-wing government pushed for changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act to remove the words 'insult, offend and humiliate' as grounds for racial discrimination. (For more detail on this refer to my article 'Freedom of Speech - A Two Edged Sword' which was published less than three weeks ago).
For years, people were vehemently defending the rights of cartoonists Bill Leak and Larry Pickering to publish vile and offensive anti-Islamic and racist works that humoured bigots Australia-wide. Yet those who argued so voraciously against 18C for the right to insult and offend others were the most vocal when their sensitive souls were insulted and offended by Yassmin's tweet. Not surprisingly, the racism that underpins much of the Anzac Day orgy of nationalism, focused on Yassmin's race and religion, with many telling her to go back to where she came from. Some grubs even suggested that she should be raped, because in their bitter and twisted minds nothing honours the memory of dead soldiers like a good, old-fashioned raping.
Yassmin's tweet did not attack diggers, it did not disparage the memory of the Anzacs, if anything it augmented the memory with current conflicts which Australia is either involved or has had military involvement in. The Navy has been used as a political pawn in 'defence' of Australia's borders by being unleashed on asylum seekers, Australia fought in Palestine and was part of the campaign that gave Britain the mandate to control Palestine for 30 or so years and subsequently resulted in the illegal creation of Israel. Now Australia is involved in Syria, part of whose problem is a result of the disastrous overthrow of Saddam Hussein, which Australia eagerly participated in even though the reasons for the second Gulf War were based on lies and brought ISIS to fruition.
Perpetually-outraged defender of white Australia, Herald-Sun columnist, Andrew Bolt described Yassmin as a 'smart-alec ABC presenter' and then went on to directly attack ... wait for it ... DIGGERS. Where was the outrage? Yassmin's tweet did not attack diggers. Yet Bolt directly attacked the RSL for allowing indigenous diggers to march under an indigenous flag and for daring to allow 'Welcome to Country' speeches at Anzac commemorations(1). Bolt and his ilk would prefer a return to the old days when indigenous people were not specifically recognised for their service, or where any recognition was low-key so as to not upset the sensibilities of the white nationalists.
Oh ... the white nationalists ... nice segue into just what some of these people stand for. April is a big month for the neo-Nazi element of the nationalists. As we all know, Anzac Day is on 25 April. However, 20 April is the birthday of the man who set the benchmark in genocidal megalomania, Adolf Hitler.
The neo-Nazis who like to drape themselves in the Aussie flag while claiming to honour the memory of Australia's fallen soldiers, also celebrate the birthday of the man who many of our soldiers died fighting against. Some even wanted to hang a picture of Adolf Hitler in every school classroom and have all students read Mein Kampf(2). Surely this is an unacceptable display of treachery and hypocrisy.To claim that our soldiers died fighting for our freedom, while celebrating the birth of one of the world's worst despots who opposed those same freedoms is dumb-founding. Where is the outrage from the perpetually outraged rabid right who are constantly questioning the values and loyalties of migrants, Muslims and the left, but giving these perfidious drongos a free pass?
Only a week before, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull vapidly released new citizenship tests and tried (but failed dismally) to articulate some ethereal Australian Values that the LNP dreamed up(3). Surely Aussie Values do not include draping oneself in the Australian flag while celebrating arguably our biggest enemy and claiming to be a patriot. Just sayin'.
But these neo-Nazis aren't just fringe dwellers, they've gone relatively main-stream. One (possibly more) of their ilk was embraced and endorsed by Pauline Hanson as a candidate for One Nation, a party that is currently polling at 23% in Queensland. The candidate, Mark Ellis, would still be standing for One Nation if a photo hadn't emerged of him saluting a swastika that he had mowed into his lawn(4). Methinks the Diggers would be rolling in their graves at how their memories are being used to fuel racism and hate-crimes against Muslims and refugees.
Labor MP ... and Muslim ... Anne Aly was accused of refusing to lay a wreath on Anzac Day. It was a fabrication, a lie, spread by wannabe politician Kim Vuga and those on the right who feel that Muslims are fair game regardless of whether they are born and bred Australian or 'integrated' into Australian society or contributing to the community. The attack on Anne Aly was a disgraceful abuse of the memory of the Anzacs by racist fools who have no respect for the diggers they claim to be honouring. For the record, Aly did lay a wreath at an Anzac memorial(5). She also stated on Channel 10's The Project on 28 April 2017, that Kim Vuga rang to apologise for spreading the lie. It's a pity that people are so gleefully willing to demonise Muslims that they don't fact check such pejorative rumours before spreading them.
Anzac Day is a solemn commemoration in which people should take pause and contemplate the sacrifices many Australians have made, some in the defence of freedom, some in the expansion of British empire (as in World War I) and some in defence of American empire (as in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq). Not all the wars that Australia has participated in were necessary or were defending our liberties. However, in all of them, men and women fought and died in service to this country and its allies.
The horrors and brutality of war, fascism and despots should not be forgotten. Many of those who are still experiencing these horrors first hand, comprise the 60 million or so refugees around the world. A tiny fraction of these have fled to Australia seeking asylum. They do not deserve to be demonised or traumatised because of political ideology as those are who still languish on Manus Island and Nauru. If any day is the day to not only contemplate our liberties, but also consider how we can assist those who are fleeing conflict, it is Anzac Day. This is a day about inclusion, not exclusion, about welcoming, not denying. It is about not forgetting that it was every day men and women, Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist, indigenous and migrants who fought for this land. Why use this day to spread hate, fear and nationalist supremacy.
Defence analyst and former Army officer, James Brown, discusses in detail the 'cult of remembrance' around Anzac Day in his 2014 book Anzac's Long Shadow - The Cost of Our National Obsession, and how this has made it difficult to comment on the truth of the disastrous and imperialistic Gallipoli invasion, and further, to even criticise the Defence Force at all.
There is nothing patriotic in sending our troops to fight unnecessary wars based on lies and hegemony. There is nothing patriotic in demonising people of other races and religions. And there certainly is nothing patriotic in traumatising, abusing and denying the human rights of those fleeing war and despots. These are not the memories of Anzac Day, these are not the 'values' that Australian soldiers fought and died for.
Lest We Forget.
1. The Herald Sun, Andrew Bolt, Anzac Day betrayed. Hijacked by tribalists. 27 April 2017. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/blogs/andrew-bolt/anzac-day-betrayed-hijacked-by-tribalists/news-story/6e6329eb130004f5a159505cf2ebeabc. Accessed 28 April 2017.
2. The Age, Michael Blachelard, Luke McMahon, Blair Cottrell, rising anti-Islam movement leader, wanted Hitler in ever classroom, 17 October 2015, http://www.theage.com.au/national/blair-cottrell-leader-of-aussie-patriots-upf-wanted-hitler-in-the-classroom-20151016-gkbbvz. Accessed 28 April 2017.
3. ABC News, Michelle Grattan, Grattan on Friday: Malcolm Turnbull forges 'values' into political weaponry, 21 April 2017, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-21/turnbull-forges-values-into-political-weaponry-michelle-grattan/8461282. Accessed 28 April 2017.
4. Independent. Will Worley, Australian far-right candidate quits after photo emerges of him saluting swastika carved into his lawn, 26 April 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/mark-ellis-australia-far-right-queensland-nazi-swastika-photo-candidate-cut-lawn-state-election-quit-a7702786.html. Accessed 28 April 2017.
5.The Sydney Morning Herald, Heather McNeill, 'Offensive and disgusting': MP Anne Aly responds to Anzac Day snub claims, 28 April 2017, http://www.smh.com.au/wa-news/offensive-and-disgusting-senator-anne-aly-responds-to-anzac-day-snub-claims-20170427-gvtzw5.html. Accessed 28 April 2017.