I co-hosted a radio show again on Saturday, and took great delight bringing up a police story about a giant 8m by 4m flag that got nicked from a flagpole outside a southside storage business that morning. I said I couldn't decide whether it was "unAustralian" or "totally Australian". After all, the modern Australia, the white Australia, was founded by a bunch of crooks of varying degrees of nastiness. Flogging a flag to celebrate that seemed somewhat appropriate.
Of course, I then remembered that listeners to the radio station I work for believe even looking at the flag inappropriately should be punished with a public lashing and a good six years of national service, preferably served on the Kokoda Track, with Sporting Shooters re-enacting the role of "The Japanese". I shut up about the flag after that.
They may not all weigh 10 kilograms and big enough to wrap a two-car garage, but geez there's a lot of flags around for Australia Day this year. They had them as giveaways on every seat at the Citizenship Ceremony I covered at City Hall this morning, and I believe various bottle shops and newspapers have been running flag promotions.
Now I'll admit to having bizarre bouts of patriotism at times. This morning's ceremony finished with a rousing version of "I Still Call Australia Home", and thanks to those damn Qantas choir kids, I can't hear that song now without a tear welling up in the peepers.
But I've never been a flag-waiver. I understand it's an important symbol of our nation, but I don't believe that it's holy, or sacred, or above all criticism. I don't believe people "died for the flag" and therefore any desceration of it is a jail-worthy offence. Surely they died in service of their country, and a flag is just a bit of material? I'd rather the flag be stripped and used as bandages than kept whole to drape over a coffin. And I don't believe flying the flag makes someone a BETTER Australian than me - in fact I believe that's often just a cheap gesture designed to make someone look patriotic without much effort.
But perhaps I'm wrong? Am I - gasp of dread, fear of all fears - unAustralian? After all, I do have a picture of Elizabeth I on my keyring. But then I am a filthy first-gen Aussie with a disturbing keen-ness for British history, after all.