The piece I wrote today giving some of my reflections on Anzac Day seemed to give offence to a couple of people, who left comments suggesting I was politicising the day and showing no respect, and taking offence at my suggestion that excessive nationalism can be less than ideal. This reaction surprised me a bit, as I thought I’d made a fairly incontestable, non-remarkable commentary exploring some of the universal truths of war. However, I seek comments on my pieces specifically so I can know what reactions they produce, and the ones that don’t agree with me are often more interesting and challenging then the ones that are.
For this Anzac Night post, instead of writing more of my own, I will instead just link to and quote from two different opinion pieces that appeared in the mainstream media over the last few days.
1. Stephen Barton, a politics lecturer at a Western Australian University had a column in yesterday’s Australian which disputes the legend that “Kokoda was the battle that saved Australia from invasion in 1942.” Instead, he states, “the Kokoda campaign actually marked the beginning of the marginalisation of Australia’s war effort.” As a historian (which I presume he is), he is entitled to reassess the strategic impact and necessity of the Kokoda campaign.
However, he then goes on to say that the ‘myth’ of Kokoda is basically a creation of Labor and the left-wing. “The ALP and its coterie of sympathetic historians, such as Manning Clark, David Day, Ross McMullin and Stuart Macintyre, are the standard bearers for the dominant view of Australian history. They embrace the battle of Kokoda because it can be twisted to fit their preferred narrative: Australian troops abandoned by the perfidious English, fighting alone, with plucky Labor man Curtin battling Churchill, as well as the Japanese.”
Article 2 is by Alan Ramsey in the Sydney Morning Herald Opinion pages. He also writes of the battles at Kokoda and Milne Bay on the Papuan peninsula – not just of the soldiers, but of the men, in particular Gavin Long and Bill Sweeting, who wrote the history of that conflict in and amongst the men they were chronicling, much as Charles Bean had at Gallipoli in such an influential way 3 decades earlier.
I wonder what the subjects of the second article would think of the writer of the first.