From Kirribili to the local RSL Australians have responded in widely varied fashion to the screening of the rather upbeat style and lyrics of the Bee Gees ahead of this year’s Dawn Service at Anzac Cove. Feelings run hot between those who feel that the reflective solemnity of Anzac Day has been sullied, and those who welcome the festive spirit natural to younger Gallipoli pilgrims. Both perspectives are understandable. The clash of the two simply reflects a national dilemma which begs for resolution. Tensions will likely remain until some key symbols of our national identity have been adequately addressed. This however will not happen overnight.
For many years debate has raged over the value of January 26th as our national day. Views have been aired and positions defended, but little has been resolved. Commendable attempts have been made by governments and others to raise Australia Day in the national consciousness, with some success but hardly with universal acclaim. The same period has seen a stunning revival of the Anzac legend in the hearts of a spiritually thirsty generation, with some community leaders proposing April 25th as a worthier date for marking our nationhood.
Last Monday we witnessed one fruit of this collective identity crisis, as it might be termed. All humans need times both of celebration and of solemn reflection. Nations and communities need them too. Few commemorations comfortably serve both these needs of the soul. Anzac Day certainly does not. We need Gallipoli for reflection. We desperately need another time and place to party.