Thursday, April 30, 2015

ANZAC Centenary

     Only because I am not Australian  can I get away with saying, "I'm so glad ANZAC Day is over."

     On April 25, 1915,  ANZAC soldiers [Australia New Zealand Army Corps] rushed the Turkish shores at Gallipoli in a World War I offensive.  At an extreme disadvantage, the casualties were enormous. Ooh rah swagger met with a sobering war reality.  The first world war was the young nation's first engagement in an international action. They were there by choice, not by monarch command. Australians remain curiously -and uncharacteristically- sentimental about the swagger and sacrifice of its young soldiers.  ANZAC Day is a national holiday complete with parades, military flyovers, speeches and even a few re-enactments.
     One hundred years on, this sentimentality has reached a feverish pitch.  Communities have spent years planning their centenary celebrations.  The federal government is spending more money to commemorate Australian involvement in WWI than on mental health treatment for current returning soldiers. Only quietly will pundits mention less than positive terms like 'Anzac fatigue' or 'military Halloween' or warn of the mythologizing of the war and the beatification of its soldiers and nurses.  People get very protective of the ANZAC memory.  The term ANZAC is actually trademarked so the use of it on hats, hoodies or beer can holders is strictly verboten as is making any cheap or cheesy reference to it in commercial advertising.
     It is a remembrance everyone can and does get behind.  I even wake up an hour before dawn and attend the local service (the Aussie in this house stays in bed, ahem) and even blogged in this column on ANZAC DAY.  I didn't get to this year's service (the crowds were way too big for my comfort) but I did place a sprig of rosemary ("rosemary for remembrance") on the local memorial statue later in the day. I did enjoy free public transport that day.  Transperth used to just offer free fares to military veterans but this year everyone enjoys a free ride. 

     And I enjoy the break from the nonstop media assault  of war movies, newspaper and magazine special ANZAC pullout sections and endless weeping for long-dead people not known personally on the radio.  I'm so glad ANZAC Day is over.