ANZAC Day – usurped again

Henry Norman Stevenson 2My readers will remember ANZAC Day 2011 on which the Australian Christian Lobby’s Jim Wallace tweeted that our ANZACS didn’t fight for gay marriage and Islam. You would have thought the brouhaha that followed that event would have warned everyone against using the day to push their own ideological agenda.

But independent South Australian MLC, Ann Bressington – a well-known anti-vax, anti-abortion, anti-fluoride, anti-anything-else-that’s-even-mildly-sensible conspiracy theorist – is immune to salutory lessons, it seems.

Ms Bressington chose the day to post a Facebook message linking the ANZACS and “BIG PHARMA”.

With steam emanating from every orifice, I wrote a retort which has been published today on Online Opinion.  You can see it here:

ANZAC Day usurped for Bressington’s anti-science balderdash

Now, my dear friend Hilton Travis (Somewhere to Think / The Outspoken Wookie) has, quite rightly questioned whether I’m being hypocritical in slamming Ms Bressington, while not also criticising my friend, Catherine Deveny for her ANZAC Day tweets. It’s something I gave deep thought to in writing the article.

In a series of tweets, Catherine wrote:

“Anzac Day. A celebration of a society so fucked up it saw no other option than to go to war. Kill, rape and invade. Then glorify it.

“The ‘spirit of ANZAC’ does not define our nation. It’s our peaceful secular democracy rooted in workers rights, feminism & multiculturalism.

“Read your history. No war Australia has ever fought has resulted in our ‘freedom’ or ‘opportunities’.

“Days like #anzacday are simply a rewriting of history to stop the sucked in and ripped off burning down parliament and killing politicians.

“Not the day for it? The only day for it. Show respect? That’s exactly what I’m doing.

“It’s very clear Japan had no intention of invading Australia. The persistance (sic) of this myth is amazing/alarming/convenient.”

As usual, Dev was blunt and controversial and you may or may not agree with her view. But, in contrast to Wallace and Bressington, Deveny was not usurping ANZAC Day to push an unrelated ideological view. I think that is the key difference here.  In fact, I would say that many returned soldiers would agree with her sentiments.

I know my father who fought in World War II wanted nothing to do with ANZAC Day, the RSL or anything else that had any hint of ‘celebrating’ either the war or its memory. That’s not to disrespect those who feel otherwise – but I think it’s true that both views are reflective of our diggers, depending on their experience and personality.
For me, it is quite different to make anti-war commentary on ANZAC Day to using the memory of the soldiers to couple them with your own political, religious or ideological agenda.

Would I have tweeted as Dev did? No. But I’m not Dev. I would argue, however, that anti-war commentary such as Dev’s is in the tradition of Alan Seymour’s great play, “The One Day of the Year” and that ANZAC Day is an appropriate day for anti-war sentiment.  It is never, however, an appropriate day to clamber up on the bodies of dead soldiers to promote an agenda which they almost certainly didn’t share and had possibly never even considered.

Chrys Stevenson

33 thoughts on “ANZAC Day – usurped again

  1. Hilton Travis

    I completely agree that Ann Bressington overstepped all lines in using ANZAC Day to promote her woo-woo, I also agree that Jim Wallace and the ACL used it to promote their ingrained bigotry, however I also think that Dev showed an utter disrespect for those who fought – and particularly for those who died – helping our friends defend our way of life.

    That’s the great thing about friends who realise each other can think – we can agree to disagree and still sit down to dinner and drinks with no animosity at all. 🙂

    1. dandare2050

      Except Devney’s behaviour has nothing to do with Chrys’ article. I’m sure there are lots of people who Chrys could have taken to task so saying “why one and not the other” is tu coqhue.

      On top of that I agree that Devs tweets were eminently ANZAC day appropriate. There are notable veterans who hold aloft that “lest we forget” is ambiguous and for them is saying that we should not forget the horror of war, even when it is fighting for survival against an oppressor and especially when the reasons for it are stupid or at the behest of the powerful who benefit.

  2. nina390

    AFL uses ANZAC for its ‘agenda’ more than any group or individual. Didnt you hear the comments from players,commentators over the last weekend plus the pre-match ceremonies?

  3. triciabertram

    I agree, the two issues are vastly different. One uses the day for a personal agenda, the other is clearly the expression of an informed opinion regarding the reality of ANZAC Day.
    I’ve never met, Catherine Deveny, but I respect her. I don’t always agree with her, but she challenges me to think about some of my too long held opinions. The world needs people who are prepared to push boundaries. Catherine Deveny, excels in the boundary pushing department.
    On the ANZAC issue I’m in complete agreement with C D.
    Chrys, I read but rarely comment on your blog. You too challenge and stimulate thought. Thank you.

  4. Christine Says Hi

    Another terrific post, thank you. For many years I found Anzac Day to be hugely offensive to everything I believed in, but I gradually changed that view as I recognised the mourning of those directly involved, and saw that the returned, the fallen and the bereaved shared a link to something real and outside my experience. Even those who did not seek to glorify it had yet seen it consume their lives across decades. Harry Patch, 111 at his death, was the last survivor of the UK’s western front soldiery is famously quoted as saying: “War is organised murder, and nothing else”, but for him those few years of horror were present in and with him every day of his good, long life.

    In recent years I’m hating Anzac Day again. I loathe the commercialism and ra-ra ‘patriotism’ which seems to be filling the void left by the dwindling numbers of people with a real, lived experience of warfare. Our political leaders and the mainstream media use the occasion as a kind of national shorthand to “Australian-ness” and wrap themselves up in it, heavy on symbolism and ritual and light on critical analysis ~ any mild attempt at that relegated in to late night SBS documentaries.

    I hear reports from Anzac Cove of drunken rampaging in the hours leading up to the dawn service, of a ‘party’ atmosphere at Villers-Brettoneaux, hear people praising themselves for the good fortune of being born on a certain patch of dirt and imagining a superiority because of that one fact … Anzac as entertainment. It won’t be long before we have ‘as seen on Anzac Day’ and ‘get your ya-yas for Anzac Day here’ sloganeering. What am I saying, the supermarkets are full of ‘flag’ things and paper napkins “for Anzac Day”.

    No wonder people feel they can hang stupid anti-health and anti-human messages onto their Anzac Day jingoism. Why not? Commercial concerns do it, political leaders do it, it must be the Australian way. We’re a nation which has refused to face hard truths about our national day, and can only ‘celebrate’ it now by turning it into a vacuous and depressingly frenzied ‘celebration’ of ‘doing it all again tomorrow’. As Anzac Day empties of meaning but the ‘brand’ maintains strong ‘consumer loyalty’ I’m sure we can manage to do the same with our national day of mourning and eagerly await the reality tv showdown between Aussie flag towel-cape wearers from Australia Day and Anzac Day, to prove which is better and whose ‘journey’ is the most publicly appealing.

    1. triciabertram

      Christine, they are already advertising cruises and other upmarket junkets for the centenary. I’m going to look for a cave with no access to the outside world for 25/4/2015.

    1. alleyb88

      mcdactor, thanks for providing this link. Having heard about the two inappropriate speeches on ANZAC day I shouldn’t have been surprised. I live in Tewantin so have first hand experience with the element of racism here and the Sunshine Coast in general.
      What I didn’t expect, was the exceptionally high level of racist and poorly informed opinions in the comments responding to the article.
      It saddened me to read the common theme of opinions that we are being invaded by aliens/foreigners who are culturally incompatible, who have no respect for our culture or OUR Australian way of life. Many comments indicated these invaders were somehow trying to impose their cultures onto us. Interesting concept given Australia has, since at least the gold rush era, evolved from people of many different cultures from all over the globe.
      Very little was mentioned about the first people of our nation.
      People wrote as if they and their forebears had lived here for centuries, carving a unique culture that was now somehow under threat.
      People choose how they wish to acknowledge Australia and ANZAC days. Some choose not to celebrate these occasions.

  5. Ken Dally

    Oh dear, I see Ann Bressington also, without specifically naming it, alluded to Agenda 21, which is going to turn us all into some kind of medieval surfs. Or at least the ones the guvment doesn’t kill off with chemtrails.

    As for Dev I agree to disagree with her on some matters but I’ve not met a veteran that would stop her from voicing her view.

  6. David McDaniel

    I am a modern vet, I march with my medals on ANZAC Day. For me and the members of my sub-branch RSL, the day is to remember, not to celebrate, and it is always a deeply emotional day. Unfortunately, there is an element who seems to try and glorify the day or make it ‘stralyn’.
    However, at the various services I attended the large majority of people were solemn and completely understood what the day stands for.
    Remember, so this never happens again.

  7. David McDaniel

    PS, for another view I have written a blog on my experiences of ANZAC Day. If you don’t mind me putting up the link, I will, but only with your approval.

  8. Glen McBride - not for publication

    Such fighting about Anzac Day – all nations have one – old soldiers are supposed to be something special – but WW2 was different – there was total war with everyone involved – everyone faced living under tight conditions – and in the UK they were bombed nightly. I served as an RAAF pilot in Blighty in that war. Criticising Anzac day is not the way to go – we need apositive course – to start moving towards a International Peace Day – that all countries could celebrate together – for no one ever wins any war – the costs in treasure are unbelievable – the misery for millions of Mums and Dads strikes everyone and returning troops face forgetting and the dangers of remembering.
    I don’t ever march on Anzac Day – but I often watch and tears often upset me. – remembering so many no longer with us.
    I would like to see somethng positive in my time – something that eery child could see and celebrate – to see the costs and wastage of war – to see the misery always accompanying war – to see what could have been achieved with all that treasure and human endeavour – to see that no one every won anything – no country or civilized human.


    1. grandson of an ww1 ambulance driver


      My opinion is that the vast majority of people see ANZAC day as a day not of celebrating war, but celebrating sacrifice for others. The vast majority of people even recognise that in many cases the sacrifice is for no real reason.

      For many this is really a day of mourning war, but celebrating the spirit of those through no fault of their own were thrust into it.

      The real problem I have with the tweets is that she abused personally (implying they were rapists for starters) those people.

      Put it this way. I would much rather listen to Weary Dunlop than Catherine Deveny.

      1. David McDaniel

        Weary Dunlop. Good call. I was fortunate to be in a cataflaque party to commemorate him at the plaque on St Kilda Rd in the late 90’s.

  9. grandson of an ww1 ambulance driver

    Chrys is displaying a massive cognitive dissonance here.

    The simple fact is the tweets were not just anti war, they were also anti soldier, and of great disrespect to the people who fought, many without any real choice in the matter, including the ones who fought and maybe share her anti war opinion.

    The tweets used a solem occasion to advance her pet grievance. It is utterly disrespectful, and the tone and language used, not about war, but about the soldiers personally, was grotesque.

    Sure some say fairly silly things about what exactly happened in the war. Catherine is as bad as any of the people promoting ANZAC day. Her version of history is not particularly unbiased either. It was the tweets of an ideologue.

    The simple fact that for most people the day is about sacrifice. Often sacrifice for no real gain. To ignore that aspect and assume that everyone sees ANZAC day as a glorification of war is a gross misrepresentation.

    Had she confined her tweets to an anti war theme, then maybe, just maybe, it would have been OK. But she didnt. She went much much further and cast serious, hurtful and blatantly untrue allegations about all Australian soldiers.

    She lost me completely on this one.

    1. dandare2050

      Gww1 perhaps re-read the tweets. At no time do they criticise soldiers, their families or their communities. The tweets are aimed solely at the concept that ANZAC day is Australia’s glorious past. They are an attack against those that would redefine the day away from what David above suggested, “Remember, so this never happens again.” Devs tweets are calling phooey on the inappropriate redefinitions.

  10. Steve Martin

    My Grand Father fought at Gallipoli, in France and in Egypt. He was a Farrier Sgt. He never joined the R.S.L. and never marched on ANZAC day afterwards. why….? as far as he was concerned “the bloody war’s finished!!”

    1. David McDaniel

      And that’s a valid reason Steve, you should be proud of him. I march, as I said, as I think it is important to remember the death and suffering that people like your grandfather endured. The RSL helps veterans who struggle physically and emotionally with home visits, advocates etc. Advocates are needed to confront DVA without putting too much stress on the vets.

      1. Steve Martin

        Hi David, i am indeed proud of him
        i have a big picture of him in uniform on the wall. one of my big regrets is that he died when i was 9 months old and never got to know him. I’ve done a number of dawn services when the kids were little and sang in chiors at the parade (townsville). Of course, this is a garrison city and pride in our armed forces runs high. I wonder if i would feel quite so proud if it werent for my grand father.

      2. David McDaniel

        Well done Steve. I know Townsville well, I served there when I was with 2/4 RAR between 1990 and 1996. I marched a couple of times down the Strand on ANZAC Day.

  11. Pingback: Due Credit to Deveny’s Detractors | Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s