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Conniptions

Here it's Australia Day.

by Michael Cook | January 26, 2018

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Happy Australia Day!

January 26 is usually a placid event Down Under, a public holiday of BBQs, visits to the beach and backyard cricket, rather than parades. This year, however, it has been troubled by protests from Aboriginal groups – the first custodians of the continent – and the Greens Party.

They point out that Australia day commemorates the raising of the British flag over Sydney in 1788. “Invasion Day” was the beginning of the dispossession, dispersal and degradation of the Aboriginal people, a day of shame.

Certainly they have a point. But many national holidays are painful reminders of past injustices. India’s Republic Day, which is also celebrated today, calls to mind the partition of the British Raj in 1947. Perhaps a million people died in the ensuing riots.

Independence Day, July 4, is a day of pride for Americans, but for 70,000 or so loyalists to the British Crown, it meant exile. France’s Bastille Day on July 14 marks the beginning of the Republic, which also include the guillotining of 40,000 real or imagined opponents of the regime in the Terror, not to mention the genocide in the Vendée, in which hundreds of thousands died.

Holidays like Australia Day celebrate the survival of a nation which has experienced shame and defeat as well as triumph and progress. We can’t purge the past of the evil that has been done; it is a sad part of our heritage. We have to learn from it, lest we relive the mistakes our ancestors made. 

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