It’s been nearly a month since I arrived in the USA. In this time I’ve been able to catch up with many friends who I met in my time at I-house. Catching up with one friend in particular has got me thinking, I never thought I would write the following sentence, but one of my friends got a Southern Cross tattoo.
I know what you are thinking, seriously? A Southern Cross tattoo? Really? And to be honest you have a fair point. The reason we all cringe is the same reason when I was in an American bar last week and I heard someone scream “Aussie Aussie Aussie”, rather then respond and seek out my fellow compatriot; I ducked my head and did my best to hold an American accent for the rest of the night.
We all know how the story goes: a small minority of misinformed, ignorant racists, took a symbol that once represented the wonderful diversity of our country and turned it into a racist symbol that most of us want to distance ourselves from. I feel a huge amount of sympathy for anyone who inked themselves with the Southern Cross prior to the wave of Cronulla riots and “Fuck Off, we’re full” shirts that swept the nation. Walk through an Australian university with a southern cross blazoned across your neck today and you might as well be sporting a swastika.
It is the discomfort that many of us feel around the Australian flag. It’s as if because some drunk bogan drapes it over his shoulder and parades around the Big Day Out yelling slurs, we should all distance ourselves from the flag.
Pretentious academics have put a feeling of guilt on us. Telling us that the flag represents racism and division. So many countries in the world show their flag with pride, but in Australia you could drive from Sydney to Melbourne without catching a glimpse of the blue ensign.
But I think we should all feel free to show our flag, to take pride in it, because we have a lot to be proud of.
As with many things in life, it is how you choose to look at it. It’s what you choose to see. You can look at our flag and you can highlight the negatives. I prefer to acknowledge these negatives, in the light of all the positives.
We are the ones who define what that flag means, we do so by tying it to the things we love about our country. There is a significant difference between being patriotic and being nationalistic. Remember; ignorance does not have an exclusive claim to the flag.
The flag represents our history, and some of that might not be pretty, but it is part of our story. I love our flag because it reminds me of a young country constantly searching for its identity. And that’s ok. A country that is incredibly accepting and multicultural. A country that is trying to come to terms with it’s history (the good and the bad) and trying to tell a better story.
I love Australia because of it’s multicultural society, not in spite of it. When my friend Shintaro was walking down the street and was passed by some white males who felt the need to yell out “fuck off ya Asian,” he was able to respond “nice Toyota.”
Ultimately it’s puzzling as to why the Southern Cross has been used in this gang, “us and them” mentality, because the Southern Cross exists for every single Australian, regardless of where they are from, regardless of the colour of their skin, regardless of whether they follow AFL or Rugby… or god forbid Soccer. It does not associate with one particular political ideology it is, quite literally, above all that.
So let’s take the Southern Cross back, use it, wear it and embrace it. Be ready to defend it as well because it is something beautiful in nature that unites us, something we all have in common, even those Tasmanians. Hear that Bogans? You can keep Ed Hardy, but we want the Southern Cross back.
“It turns out the droplet of our knowledge is a bit lost in the ocean of our unknowing.”
Donald Miller - Through Painted Deserts