Pretty much the only time I eat Vegemite is when I am not in Australia. Certainly the only time I wave an Australian flag is when I am not in Australia. The only time I ever think a tattoo of the Southern Cross is a good idea is when I am not in Australia. I don’t celebrate our national day when in Australia. We are in an election campaign in Australia right now and when I hear we live in the greatest country in the world, I cringe. But when I’m overseas, I’m all over Australia Day, and I do think Australia is the best country on offer (or at least among the best).
I wonder what Americans would think of this attitude to my (lack of) national pride? I’ve seen in US election campaigns that it is polling kamikaze to suggest that The US of A is anything but the best. I look at wildly patriotic countries, especially South American ones during football competitions and I just can never imagine the same heated passion taking over our lazy-ass population. I remember my first trip to North America and thinking how weird it was that all the houses had flags out front.
Sadly, all things patriotic, at least when at home, have taken on new meaning since the mid-late nineties, when Pauline Hanson burst onto the federal political scene with her One Nation party and this very well known image of her draped in our national flag. She and her party peddled half-baked, divisive policies that awoke the sleeping beast of xenophobia in this country. Just don’t ask her what that word means. The infamous Cronulla Riots in Sydney further sullied the image of wearing our national flag when, for a shameful week or so in 2005, national pride was used as an excuse to brutalise random strangers, destroy property and assault emergency service workers. Now, at least for me, the flag has become a symbol of an underbelly of racism that festers here in our best country on earth.
I don’t celebrate our national day because it is the worst day to celebrate our birth as a nation. Australia Day is a celebration of the arrival of the British on our shores and their subsequent proclaimation of soverignty over an already populated country. Invasion, most would call that these days. I would love to celebrate Australia Day, just not on that day. I am, actually, a very proud Australian, off shore and on. I love lots of things about us. Our -isms, our humour, the attitude. I love the love of being outside that we have. I love the incredible beauty of our place. I love that we have snow, desert and rainforest all in one place. I love that Europeans freak out that you can drive for six days in Australia and still be in the same country. I love that we have the deadliest animals on earth here, and the cutest. Sometimes I even have a bit of Vegemite on toast.