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  • Sun, 12, Aug, 2018 - 5:00:AM

Why we should care even less about the flag

A few weeks ago, New Zealand’s warrior princess Lucy Lawless fired off a tweet stating she wouldn’t be bothered if she saw someone burning the New Zealand flag. To be exact, she wrote; “Truthfully, to those of you who ask, if I saw a NZer burning our flag, I would shrug my shoulders and think, Jeez, that person’s really pissed at the govt. It would not offend my sense of identity one bit. I don’t think I’m alone. May I ask how you all might feel?”  

The tweet garnered over 400 replies - with agreement seeming the general consensus, and I felt a vague sense of pride toward my laissez-faire country of birth. Heavily-liked replies included:  

“I’d rather be patriotic to the people, not symbols.”  

“I am less offended by that than I am by policies which restrict freedoms, access to education, healthcare, etc.”  

And, brilliantly: “Me: May I politely ask why you're burning the New Zealand flag? Flag Burner: New Zealand? Are you sure? I thought this was the Australian flag!” 

The incident reminded me that when the last government put us through the ridiculous flag referendum, the overwhelming response (as noted by John Oliver) was less nationalism and more meh.  

I found myself thinking that we were a different breed. A casual lot, facing the same problems as the rest of the world - racism, inequality, poverty and the like - but minus the icky patriotism of the USA.  

But, of course, I was mistaken. I was naïve to think that way in the first place. People who have dared point out the myriad problems within our country have been labelled ungrateful hua and (good lord) treasonous. But in my comfy Twitter bubble I let myself think the nice thoughts.  

As I should have expected - if I hadn’t been so rosy-eyed for a hot minute - when the mainstream media caught wind of the statement, the proverbial hit the fan. Or, a new metaphor, the flag wavers started furiously flapping.  

Lawless was labelled an “attention seeker” by Duncan Garner, which, given our storied history of name-calling, was rather lacking in pizazz. He made mention of his days as a seven-year-old wherein he erected the flag at school - as if one person’s nostalgia for a symbol should assuage another’s righteous anger toward it. 

But I should have seen it coming. New Zealand is a deeply egotistical country. While we don’t recite a version of the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, myself and most of my friends remember singing Primary School ditties about how beautiful the country is (Christmas on the beach, Christmas on the beach).  

We’ve made an embarrassing tradition of begging celebrities for praise (how do you like New Zealand? Isn’t it beautiful? We’re not like other countries, we’re a COOL country) - and of turning that coerced praise into a headline (Famous Person ‘Loves’ New Zealand - Wishes to Live Here). As is the way with endowed egos, we’re fragile as all hell.  

The truth is, plenty of New Zealanders have reason to be angry at the country, or the government, or their fellow citizens. In fact, it’s patriotic to wish the country were better. Pride in one’s country doesn’t mean blind worship of a piece of fabric. Nor does it mean pretending we don’t have problems. We should be proud of the Waititis, the Cattons, and the Lawlesses. We should encourage criticism over worship. And we should definitely stop being name-calling prats about a piece of cloth that’s almost identical to the one next door.  

TAGGED IN

  • New Zealand Flag /
  • Patriotism /
  • Nationalism /
  • Twitter /
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Abigail
Johnson

Regular Contributor All Articles