As we drove through Texas, I pointed out a huge American flag in the distance. “What’s that? Some military base?”
He looked at it. “Nope. Probably a car yard.”
And so it was.
Driving through America is an exercise in flag-waving. The suburbs are full of houses with flagpoles in their yards. Cars have flag decals. people wear the flag on their hats, their social media pages, their tattoos. It’s everywhere.
In Australia, not so much. Some homeowner with a flagpole, let alone a flag flying, is regarded with suspicion as not being quite the thing. A little too gaudy, a little too unsure of themselves, a little bit racist.
On Australia Day or Anzac Day, sure, everyone loves the flag. Those are days when we celebrate our national identity, and the flag is a big part of that. Kids will get Australian flag temporary tattoos, wave a little plastic flag, stand up proudly when the national dirge is played.
Other times, not so much. Government installations will fly the flag. Military bases, schools, council chambers. They’ll often fly the Aboriginal flag as well, to indicate that they are only doing it because it’s in a book of regulations somewhere.
But there’s a certain subset of Australians who wave the flag around, make it a big part of their identity. They are sending a message of Australia for Australians, Australia: love it or leave it, Australia is full up.
I personally think immigration is too high, as is the national birth rate. I’ve flown over Australia enough times to know that once you leave the coast, the land soon turns into desert. It’s like flying over Mars. For hours on end there is nothing but rocks and sand. We might be a big country, but most of the place is miles and miles of nothing at all.
And we’ve got to keep building stuff to put new Australians in. Every year we have to build enough houses and roads and schools and hospitals to make a new city the size of Canberra, the national capital. Housing is all but unaffordable for young couples, and like as not if they do find a house with enough room to raise a family, it’s a two hour commute in to work, and another two back again in the evening.
But I don’t think these particular flag-wavers have questions of infrastructure or environmental sustainability on their minds. No, they don’t want to see any more “foreigners” coming in. People who can’t speak English. People who aren’t Christians. People with brown skins.
For these flag-waving folk, the flag is a shorthand way of saying “I’m a racist, and proud of it.”
So pardon me if I don’t fly the flag or put it on my social media profile. I love my country, and I’m a proud Aussie, but I wouldn’t want to be mistaken for a bigoted bastard.
Image courtesy Wikipedia