Well, ANZAC day has come and gone for another year and I'm left with an increasing sense of unease.
My unease has been growing for a number of years, concurrent with the increasing popularity of the day and its rituals, especially with the young. I'm not quite sure when I first started to hear, via the media, that New Zealand's military involvement at the slaughter that was Gallipoli symbolised the moment we first became a nation, but it certainly wasn't considered that way when I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s.
Many things disturb me about this claim, not the least because it is based on a view that the ultimate arbiter of nationhood is the (male) experience of war, especially a battle and a war fought in someone else's country. I don't have any issue with people wishing to honour and respect the sacrifices their forebears have made, or with the desire to construct meaningful narratives about who we were and are, or with debates about what constitutes the basis and nature of our citizenship. What concerns me is who and what are missing from this version, and, to use old-fashioned language, whose point of view is it and whose interests does it serve?
The idea that there is one narrative, and one moment, that defines a person's - let alone a nation's - identity is ludicrous. Anyone who attempts to construct a narrative is immediately challenged by issues of point of view and perspective. And then there are issues of what to include and what to leave out, what emphasis to give actions or events, what to hint at or make explicit, what is text and what is subtext.
Here is a link to a book review of We Will Not Cease.