Why I wasn’t feeling good about Australia… and then was, and then wasn’t.

Australia Day has begun to upset me, as it approaches and passes each year. This is a day for our country – to celebrate our nation – but for some reason I NEVER get excited about it. Australia Day always brings out negative aspects of Australian society, even when we are conscious that this is going to happen – it still happens, stirring up malicious talk and furious debate about flags, colonialism, indigenous rights and so forth.

When people hang flags out their car windows – yes, I am one of those disgustingly unpatriotic (go on, call ACA) people who go “ugh!” because, burned in my mind, is the mental picture of those flags hanging out of the windows of utes, with their massive bull bars and those high antenna type things that I don’t even know what they are – with bumper stickers declaring “f@#* off we’re full”. Yes, I’m stereotyping – but after you see these people a few times, you begin to feel sick, and these flags – the flags of our lucky, wonderful country, begin to represent racism, and xenophobia.

Flags should imbue pride, love, strength of character, memories of a nation – but no, I don’t want to see the Union Jack anymore. (And no, I’m not trying to erase from our past the horrors, the victories, the construction of our country on the backs of convicts and pioneers, I’m just ready for us to move on from England – we are so much more than that now.)

So anyway, Australia Day came and went. I stuck a few flag tattoos on my body to appease my friends, although I cut the Union Jack out of one, and we put up the usual big flag in the backyard, replete with cardboard Aboriginal Flag stuck over the left corner with a bulldog clip.

And every year, I am so thankful that my friends appreciate this day in a similar way – we call the party Oz Day/Invasion Day, and they come to play cricket, share a BBQ, and they always admire the two flags merging to make one. To us it’s just a day. We ignore the nationalistic propaganda that pulls in the hoards of Australians who are frightened of ‘losing their way of life’ or being converted to Islam.

I teared up as I watched our newest Australians being welcomed into our country on the morning of Australia Day, being given their Australian Citizenship. Headscarves, skull caps, white people, black people, Asian people – THAT is what I love about Australia.

But still, preceding the holiday we endure the week of Today Tonight’s “investigative reporting” and A Current Affairs’ “exclusive reports” about red-neck racists and flag waving, and their ridiculous stories that drive the seeds of intolerance further and further in. I witness Facebook friends (“friends”) get upset about Indigenous Australians calling Australia Day “Invasion Day”, and read their ignorant and blatantly insensitive rants about this, whilst in my head vile visions swirl of Aboriginal babies being buried neck deep and having their heads kicked in. THAT is why I get upset about Australia Day: because people just chuck another shrimp on the barbie and bang on about how great we are, while Indigenous Australians count themselves lucky to live past 50, and the Northern Territory has become the suicide capital of the Western World.

So, Part 2: I went to the cricket. Australia vs India, 20/20.

It was fantastic. The spirit of the crowd was amazing. The Indian supporters outnumbered the Australians, and the crowd was this crazy mix of yellow and blue. There was a lot of love.

I love the Indian community of Melbourne. I love the way they smile, they dance, they have a good time. There were no drunken Indian supporters (not like the rowdy Barmy Army), I didn’t even see many drunken Australian supporters, and I saw no fights, no anger, no hatred, no intolerance. I’m sure it existed that night, but you know what? I didn’t see anything but  love, appreciation for good sport, and a genuine friendliness between the two sides and countries.

Down in front of us some Indian supporters were going to a lot of trouble to decorate a banner, which they would hold high above their heads whenever there was an excuse to cheer. I straight away felt a pang of concern – they were blocking everyone’s sight, and I envisaged the large, vocal group of Aussie supporters getting narky about their diminished view. I tensed up, considering where I could run to if it got violent.

It didn’t get violent. The Australians instead brought out their own banner (“We love Hogg”), which I half expected to say the comical “We can’t see!”  Even more comically, the back side of the “We love Hogg” said “WRONG WAY” to the delight of us all sitting behind.

It was a great night. I loved Melbourne, and I loved Australia right then.

Part 3:

Media Watch was on last night, a show that I have always loved – I think because I never actually know when it’s on, it just suddenly appears after some other show on the ABC, and gives me a good little chuckle for ten minutes.

Media Watch last night took a look at the media coverage of the Australia Day incident concerning PM Gillard and her Cinderella moment in Canberra, and the consequence of having news websites that do not moderate comments made by readers.

Some readers of the online articles had freely left disturbingly derogatory comments about Indigenous Australians, with no moderation, and no censorship. The thoughts being written out for the internet world to see, just showed the horrible and ignorant, racist aspects of Australia, and they were able to use words that have long been known as unacceptable  because the ‘automatic censor’ didn’t have these words registered as intolerable for the site. My happy memories of the Indian and Australian supporters smiling and dancing together were slowly fading…

At least a recent online article about Migrant Workers in Australia made me chuckle, when one switched-on reader commented that they should “all go get jobs”. Oh dear.

Your little girl wants to play cricket for Australia – tell her to get her scoring sheet ready

It certainly looks like a sporting match of International standards. The players – athletic, powerful, talented – are wearing the recognisable, Green and Gold, authorised uniforms of our country, and are the best of our country at cricket, having passed rigorous selection and undertaking regimes of hard training. This team is the current Twenty Twenty Cricket World Cup leaders.

Hang on – I hear you say, are the Aussies  the current T20 World Champions?

Yes, they are.

No, ENGLAND won in 2010, I hear you whine.

Ahh, yes, our men. But our women beat New Zealand last year.

So, our women are playing in Canberra, against England, in their spiffy uniforms, representing our country. One of our girls is such a sporting masterpiece, she plays in our Soccer Team, AND our Cricket Team. Did you know that?

The first ball is played, and I’m thinking… where are the spectators? Also, why is there no square leg umpire? After about 4 balls, the crowds can be seem swarming into the seats. Why, I wonder, has the stadium gate organisation been so poor that spectators couldn’t even be admitted before the first ball?

The ABC cross to their ‘on the ground’ commentary team, comedians and social commentators “The Chasers”, and a young woman who would be better placed on Video Hits. (To be fair, ABC Grandstand give great coverage, professional commentary in the box, and did eventually get the little running score tally up in the top left of the screen.)

The video hits girl is talking to one of our Southern Stars, who is sitting on the sidelines, having already batted, sandwich in one hand, scoring sheet in the other, marking down the scores, balls and overs as they pass and accumulate.

Hang on…!? One of our top order batswomen is SCORING? WHY oh why – can women’s cricket not even afford to have a NON-PLAYER keep the team’s record of the scores?

Oh the shame… Pick up your act Australia, and support women’s sport.

Over the fence

The dragonflies hover around my plastic cup filled with wine, as it sits, nestled in an obliging grass tuft. I need both my hands free, and I tuck my summer dress into my undies for optimum leg movement, and lets face it, to feel more like one of the boys – and less girlish. The bowler runs in, and the tennis ball rockets towards the man at gully, who throws his stubby unecessarily far from his body, and dives for an amazing catch. He is up rescuing his frothing frothy within seconds, to the cheers of the rest of us.

It’s New Year’s, and we are not gate crashers – but not quite well acquainted with the hosts. And, sitting around somewhat awkwardly, considering the six or so hours left of forced interaction – we jumped the fence, into the newly mown reserve, set up two chairs for wickets, and the cricket game was on.

There’s something about sport – and I’m no sporting fanatic – but there is definately something about involving a group of people you don’t know from a bar of soap to step up to bat, bowl, field or keep to improve any situation not quite conducive to good communication. It’s not that the party wasn’t good – it’s just that early period of a gathering where noone is quite drunk enough for free talking, and people like me – who get restless and bored a bit too easily, need something to do.

There’s amazing batting knocks, great catches, and a suprisingly extensive reportoire of Barmy Army chants to keep the game raucous and interesting, and some of the locals even stop to watch from their evening dog walks. Our group is about 15 people strong, the grass is prickle, and relatively broken glass free, and the esky has been transported to just over the fence, for easy pass over by spectators still on the house side.

The next ball flies high towards me, and after what seems an eternity, lands snugly in my hands as the entire fielding side screams “CATCH IT!! CATCH IT – GOT HIM!!”

My boyfriend runs up to me, “I love you baby… but not as much as I loved that catch!” Lovely.

I’m up for a bat.

“‘Ere we go! EASY WICKET!” The wicket keeper absorbs my death look as I step up to bat – “I hope that comment was based on my batting ability, and not my gender, Robo.”

Robo laughs, and doesn’t even bother to put down his beer as the bowler runs in. I try to remember everything the boys always tell me, I angle the bat, take a swing, hit – and run with the sounds of Robo’s suprised groan behind me, as it goes for four.

Next ball I’m out, but the sun is setting, and we abandon the game for poor light.

Happy New Year’s.

Why sometimes it’s good to lose

England retain the ashes. Oh the disappointment. Oh the sheer indignity of it all. We have lost. Lost! Hang on – we are Australia, the greatest cricketing nation in the world, the greatest SPORTING nation in the world. We can’t NOT be the best at ANYTHING. What is happening? Oh the shame.

Sometimes, we just have to lose. For a nation of people inclined to cut down tall poppies in any sphere, we should be happy – shouldn’t we? England played a fair, good (better) game, and they deserved to win.

And so now, how quickly we will shout out for a shake up of the squad, the sacking of our captain, and call for new talent, to rejuvinate and resurrect our team in order to retain the little urn that stands for so much between our country and our colonial Mother land.

In my hardcore Church-going days, someone said that God needs to break you down, so that you can rebuild yourself stronger than ever. We cannot always win, we cannot always be the best in the world at everything, and we cannot raise the children of our nation to just expect to win and be successful, just because it seems we always have been. Any success requires hard work and determination. England demonstrated this, and, now that we have lost, young Australians can feel that defeat, feel that disappointment, and look forward to a new, refreshing Australian side to once again work towards world domination.

For those of my generation who have grown up watching, and expecting, the consistent success of the likes of Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Gilchrist, the Waugh brothers, Hussey and McGrath, we will just have to suck it up, move on, and admit defeat.

But dang it they should have just brought Warnie back.