Why it’s still cool to be patriotic
It’s January 25th right now and I’m seating in a middle seat on a 14 hour flight to my wife’s home country of Australia. Since the time difference is about 18 hours ahead, when you fly out of Australia you actually end up skipping an entire day. When we land there will be no existence of January 26th, 2018 on my life’s timeline and it will be around 8:00am January 27th (which happens to be my brother Bret’s birthday). Though January 26th may not be significant to many people in America, it holds overwhelming significance in Australia. It’s known as Australia Day, or to simplify, the day the British first arrived and began to colonize.
My wife was on the phone to one of her best friend’s from down under who said that a large majority of people 30 and under in Australia are choosing not to celebrate Australia Day any longer, citing it’s racially charged origins. Much like the events that transpired in the dawn of America’s birth, the native people of Australia – the Aborigines – were not treated with much respect. They were not initially seen as equals and were slaughtered in mass numbers and eventually forced to live in less desirable parts of Australia in what us Yankees would refer to as the Outback. It sounds great in movies and has even produced a pretty decent steakhouse chain in the States, but what was done was inhumane and surely after this life there will be consequences for the actions of those early European settlers.
Over the years, progress has been made to restore relations with the Aboriginal people, including educational grants, welfare assistance, and most notably in the past decade a national day of apology from the Australian government to those who were so affected by the events a few hundred years ago. The story of the Aborigines sounds eerily similar to the story of the Native Americans does it not?
I remember reading and hearing stories about the heroic efforts of Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Sacajawea, the last stand of the Nez Perce Indians, and the beautiful government of the Iroquois Nation from which Benjamin Franklin studied and borrowed principles which were woven into the fabric of our own government. How much better our nation may be today had the Iroquois’s “Council of Grandmothers” been adopted into law.
I talk about these stories not to change the subject head, but because these stories are part of what make America the country it is today. Australia in it’s own right has embraced cultural symbols like the didgeridoo and the boomerang, not to mention tribal artwork, all attributed to Aboriginal people are part of Australian history. How sad would it be to not celebrate the history and heritage of a country based on events that happened to ancestors hundreds of years ago, whether your ancestors were on the perceived winning or losing side? Australian inventors have brought us world changing ideas and products like Wi-Fi and Vegemite! These are things that should be celebrated, independent of the race of the person who is credited for the invention.
Australia Day in many respects is equivalent to our Independence Day on July 4. With that independence, was born freedom. What does that even mean? A man named Joseph Smith, founder and first prophet of the LDS (Mormon) Church, was asked by a reporter how he was able to get his followers to “obey him”. He stated simply he simply “[teaches] them correct principles, and let the people govern themselves”. He was also credited for saying that men and women should be “independent in all things under Heaven”. People being able to govern themselves and make choices to be independent! That Is freedom. Let freedom ring! There are many countries in the world where those concepts are so foreign to the framework of society. It’s so obvious we have something others don’t, that while reading this you can probably think of at least 5 countries off the top of your head where you wouldn’t enjoy the same freedoms you enjoy in America. Let me reiterate: principles that have driven people in America to change the world – for good – STILL DO NOT EXIST IN MANY PARTS OF THE WORLD. While it has taken far too long for aspects of racial and gender equality to be adopted by our society, I’m so grateful to be living in this day and to be born in a country where individual achievement and liberty is something we’re able to celebrate and the fight wages on to protect. Our history may be rocky, but our future is bright. I’m proud to be an American, because it means we can be free to worship, pursue employment opportunities, travel, and marry Australians all without repercussions or governmental interference. There is nothing uncool about that.