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April 25, 2008 | by  | in Online Only |
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ANZAC Day

ANZAC Day 2008. One year on from the messy Valerie Morse protest, where she burnt a New Zealand flag as protest against New Zealand’s involvement in armed conflict.

Today I was at the dawn service. There were no protests. It was a solemn service of remembrance. As it should be, and as ANZAC day has always been.

I cannot think of a time, at primary school, high school or university, where I have ever been taught or told that ANZAC day glorifies war, conflict and violence in any way. I remember veterans coming to schools around ANZAC time and relating stories to us about the horrors and atrocities of war, about the friends they lost, about the physical and emotional wounds they suffered. I could not think of a better advert against war.

In my 6th form year of high school, one major thing happened to me as a person. My grandfather, Derek Hay was diagnosed with dementia. This happened after he suffered a stroke during a hip operation. One day after I returned home from school I got a call to say that Poppa had had fall, and that I should come over and help Grandma. When I got there Poppa was having a flash back from his service years. Suddenly we were transported back to some battlefield in South East Asia, I was no longer Jackson, but a brother in arms. Poppa was calling for more ammunition and that he was wounded. Whizz bangs where going off around us, and suddenly I transmogrified into a Jap…

This was the first and only time I heard anything like this from my grandfather. He didn’t talk about the experiences he had to anyone. Not my mother, uncles, or his wife Joan. He did however always instil a sense of proprietary into me that we should honour those of us who fought to keep NZ free, and that we should never ever glorify war.

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I have heard one person in particular talking about how her grandfather would never go to the RSA because he didn’t want to hear all of the other vets talking about the war. I counter that if he had ever gone, and if he was to go to the RSA today, the atmosphere he would have walked into was one of underlying lament and sorrow. No NZ veteran I have ever talked to, be that my grandfathers, great uncles, the oldies they carted around to schools, old boys of my high school, has glorified war, and has only ever regretted that New Zealand continues involvement in armed conflict.

I have heard another person say that ANZAC day covers up the atrocities that New Zealand troops committed during their tours. This may be true, but then again there are 364 other days of the year that we can bring these to light. New Zealand troops were no angels; to think they were angelic soldiers doing God’s work is a misapprehension only people with the most puerile understanding of NZ history operate under. Just because those atrocities go unspoken, does not mean that they are not acknowledged. If anything the silence about them shows our shame as a nation. The point is that ANZAC day has and always will be about remembering those who died, and what they died for, as Anand Satyanand said today:

“The young men and women whose sacrifice we honour today died to preserve freedom of speech and the right to choose our representatives in free and fair elections.”

So protest ANZAC day if you are ignorant, if you are disrespectful. If you’re so wrapped up in your own parochial schema that you cannot see that you are offending the 99% of New Zealanders who do care about our shared identity, who care about the memories of our relatives, friends and neighbours.

What we should be doing is protesting against people who express thoughts like this:

“People are dying because our gutless government refuses to use the full brunt of our military to enforce peace in this world!!!!! COWARDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Our NATO brothers are fighting in a war we should be a part of yet all we do is send engineers, we have the military strength whgy not bloody use it!!!!! We didnt by LAVIII’s to have them drive around the country side looking pretty, our boys are chomping at the bit to go smash some Taliban ASS!!!! Hopefully John Key will have more balls!!!! “

as well as people who express thoughts like this:

Some of us will use the commemoration it to articulate the pointlessness of all that death in the first place; we’ll use it to argue that we should work towards removing such killings.

and:

I have protested ANZAC day, peacefully and intelligently, many times…
We protest for the women and children who are the “collatoral [sic] damage” imposed by the US forces and their allies, civillians who did not engage in war, were not contracted to any armed forces, yet who have died in their hundreds of thousands; while the USA is up to a count of some four thousand military casualties, enough that US citizens are calling for the troops to be brought back from a war that they can’t win.

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So I say to people who sit on divergent sides of the spectrum, you are both dangerous for New Zealand. You both express views that are out of touch with the actual meaning of the day. No matter how much politics and history you read you are dislocated from our New Zealand identity, and the spirit in which we celebrate ANZAC day. You both annoy me with your petulant attitudes. You do no good to either side of your argument. You both forget one of the main messages that that is said at ANZAC day, a message that is inscribed on most cenotaphs, memorials and tombstones: “Lest we forget.”

And forget, I will not.

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The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

Comments (30)

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  1. Gibbon says:

    Nicely written but my question is: did VUWSA lay any communist wreathes this year?

  2. So what? says:

    Jackson, this is a fantastic blog. You have managed to get everything across that I could not in the previous discussion on this site about Anzac Day (I found I was descending into expletives and anger when I tried).

    I am sorry that happened to you with your Poppa. My Grandad never spoke of the war to us, but he did love Anzac Day.

  3. I totally agree with you Jackson. Lest we forget.

  4. Tired says:

    To my knowledge VUWSA laid a wreath with a poem lamenting the loss and suffering of those involved in the war on it. So no, there was no communist wreath.

  5. The Smelly Marxist says:

    Drat and damnation – no commie wreath!!! I over slept this year so didn’t get to the cenotaph in time… But seriously, I am sickened as to how ” the loss and suffering of those involved in the war” has been exploited by the media and by politicians in the name of patriotism. There is no united ‘New Zealand Nation’, it is a bourgeois myth used to hide or downplay the inequalities that exist within society. Patriotism is a racist and sexist opiate of the politically unconscious. The veterans I know fought for their families and friends’ freedom and rights, not for “God, King and Country” or some coloured piece of cloth. This is a special “Fuck you!” out to the National Front and to others who blindly worship the NZ flag and ‘national pride’.

  6. So.. we should burn the flag then?

  7. Jackson Wood says:

    I would argue that there is no united New Zealand nation because of the precise reason that the people fought for: democracy.

    That is one of the great things about democracy, it allows idiots like you to voice your half baked opinions.

  8. Karl, I think we could be friends. Wanna hang out sometime??

  9. Mr G says:

    gosh I think I might throw up.

    fighting for freedom? tell that to the 800 NZers locked up without charge during word war 2 for refusing to fight
    lest we forget? tell that to the tens of thousands conscripted to fight in world war 1, who died in europe for some stupid war to end all wars (whoops someone got that bit wrong) and gosh can anyone remember what that was all about. why were we invading Turkey anyway?
    how about a million vietnamese people massacred by a foreign invader with a bit of help from NZ volunteers

    ANZAC day should be about remembering all the dead (on both sides) and criticising the scumbag politicians and generals who started the wars, instead of inviting the arseholes to speak…

    lest we forget? most of us have already forgotten

  10. Isn’t that what we do on ANZAC Day? Remember the dead and the causes for the war so we can avoid the same thing happening again?

  11. Not according to Jackson’s post, no. Given that he specifically says that anyone who wants ANZAC day to articulate a call for peace is “dangerous.” :>

  12. Sorry, where does he say that?

  13. What we should be doing is protesting against people who express thoughts like this […] as well as people who express thoughts like this:

    “Some of us will use the commemoration it to articulate the pointlessness of all that death in the first place; we’ll use it to argue that we should work towards removing such killings.”

    […] So I say to people who sit on divergent sides of the spectrum, you are both dangerous for New Zealand.

  14. I think what he meant there was that upsetting 80-year-old war veterans by burning the national flag is not the right way to protest against war. If Valerie Morse is attempting to make a political point, she should make it to politicians, not returned service people, many of whom had no choice but to fight in wars and who lost friends and loved ones in the war.

  15. Jackson Wood says:

    Mr. G: you missed the entire point of the post. We do remember the dead on both sides, if you had turned up the the dawn service instead of being angry you would have heard Karmal Atatürk’s words:
    “You, the mothers,
    who sent their sons from far away countries
    wipe away your tears.
    Your sons are now lying in our bossom
    and are in peace.
    After having lost their lives on this land they have
    become our sons as well.”

    Tristan: I never said that. I said that ANZAC day was a day for remember the dead and the causes for war, and by gathering around to express how our mourning for the loss of life we show that we do not want people to die and that we do want peace. You do not have to burn flags, and act like a goat to effect change. All you are doing is alienating people who in theory support your ideas. Just like you are doing now.

  16. Yeah, Shitkicker reckons the only point that people burning the flag get across is that they are burning the flag. How does that ‘articulate peace’?

  17. “I never said that.”

    Dude, I just quoted you saying that. If you’ve said something, you can’t say that you haven’t said it. You used a quote which was not about burning flags, it simply said “I want to say that war is bad” on Anzac day, and you specifically call this “dangerous.” The defence “I think what he meant there” aside, yes, you did say that.

  18. “Yeah, Shitkicker reckons the only point that people burning the flag get across is that they are burning the flag. How does that ‘articulate peace’?”

    True, burning a flag is only burning a flag, it’s not a particularly useful thing to do. But you’re not just arguing against burning a flag, you have also specifically argued against calling for peace. It’s this – and not your anti-flag-burning argument – that I am contesting here.

  19. I am arguing against engaging in an act designed to upset really old people, namely war veterans, and claiming that you’re somehow proving a political point by doing so. I’m not against calling for peace, I simply cannot see how burning the flag is meant to be a call for peace. Perhaps you could explain how using violent means, such as burning a flag, is an effective call for peace.

  20. Jackson Wood says:

    Tristan, that was a quote from you . You used that quote to defend the picketing and protest of the dawn service last year.

  21. Of course I am aware it’s my quote: you quoted me saying that people should be allowed to protest against war at ANZAC day. Whether burning the flag is a good form of protest is another argument – personally I don’t think it’s a particularly useful act (although it was intended well), because as you say it alienates people – we differ in that I don’t think it’s ethically wrong to burn the flag.

    But read your post again – you haven’t just said that burning flags is bad. You say repeatedly that trying to argue for peace, and pointing out the bad points about the NZ military, are also unacceptable behaviour on Anzac day. If this isn’t what you meant, then cool (and I wouldn’t be arguing with you) – but it’s what you said.

  22. PP Mcgee says:

    Hats off to you, Mr Wood.
    I would like to donate to your political party.
    Wll you accept wads of cash?
    Also, who is this damned militarist character?
    “our boys are chomping at the bit to go smash some Taliban ASS!!!! Hopefully John Key will have more balls!!!! “
    Eh?

  23. Mr G says:

    amazing. some people here are more offended by burning flags than burning people, which is what soldiers and air force guys do in wars

  24. What’s your point Mr G? You ain’t no g.

  25. Yea Mr G, but we only do that when they are trying to burn us back too. When did you ever see the New Zealand flag try and oppress someone.

  26. Karl Bronstein says:

    “Ain’t nuthin’ but a “G” thang, baaaaabay!
    Two loc’ed out n***** so we’re craaaaazay!” – Dr Dre feat Snoop Dogg

    I have no point to this but I felt it needed to be said.
    Good day

  27. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    I found both this article, and the posts that followed it, really interesting. It shows that there really are a wide variety of interpretations that can be drawn from ANZAC Day, and that the meaning of it and what it represents differs for different people. Overall, though, I believe that ANZAC Day is a reflection on the nature of war – what it was and continues to be fought for; whether or not it is justified – and if so, in what way; and that war, and the suffering that it brings, is in itself a symbol for the call for peace. But I think we can all agree that, whether or not we agree with what ANZAC Day means, or whether or not we agree with the causes behind any particular conflict, we all dip our hats at the soldiers who have sacrificed so much for us in the past and continue to do so.

    I think the legend of the ANZAC is somewhat stereotypical, and doesn’t represent the true nature of the many different individuals that have fought, and continue to fight – but I totally agree with what Jackson was saying about the humbleness that is shared by all veterans. Both of my grandfathers were the same.

    Great post!

  28. Matt says:

    “Yea Mr G, but we only do that when they are trying to burn us back too. When did you ever see the New Zealand flag try and oppress someone.”

    Er, is that meant to be a joke?

  29. rick says:

    what does lest we forget mean

  30. Jackson Wood says:

    Rick:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lest_We_Forget
    This explains it so much better than I can.

    Oh, and fuck you.

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