There was, in fact, another story I heard second-hand from Australia Day, and seeing the Egyptian flags draped across the distressed citizens of Cairo has reminded me of it.
Australia Day and the unrest in Egypt prove without a doubt how much flags carry the cultural weight and fabric of national identity within them.
Imagine then what might have been going on in the mind of the owner of the car with its attached flags, parked alongside many others near the South Perth foreshore on Australia Day, presumably for the fireworks.
Nothing strange so far, except that the flags weren’t Australian, including either the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander flags.
As I heard the story, the flag was recounted to be, “one with a few stripes, and a star or other symbol or something.” I was busting my memory to try and figure out which country it might have been:
But it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t Australian. And to some of the people who walked past it on the way back to their cars after the fireworks, it was clearly inappropriate – and fair game. By the time the storyteller walked past it again, the car had had food and drink smeared across all the windows, and the flags ripped off. Not completely trashed mind you, but a clear message nonetheless.
And that message was intolerance.
I’m saddened that perhaps, just perhaps, the owner of this car thought through the gamble to put another country’s flag – maybe the country of their birth or ancestry – on the car in a spirit of multicultural tolerance on our Big National Day, only to be sorely disappointed, probably embarrassed and definitely out of pocket.
Perhaps someone was taking the piss, or it was a prank on someone else’s car?
Perhaps the owner was being deliberately provocative?
Perhaps it was a few years too early. That’s what I’d like to think.
Either way, it’s a pretty sad tale about how far we’ve still got to go.