Is it time to revise Anzac Day?
I agree that the events around the Land Wars here on our own soil should have more significance (and, in my opinion, they do) than those on Gallipoli...The Land Wars are portraits and painted scenes in corners of museums, a piece of scrimshaw, the occasional diorama...
I've been kicking round the idea of starting a campaign to reform Anzac Day, so that it commemorates troops who served in New Zealand's Land Wars in the nineteenth century, as well as those who went overseas in the twentieth.
If we really want to remember and discuss the wars that shaped this country on Anzac Day, shouldn't we consider Hone Heke's war in the north in the 1840s, the Waikato War of 1863-63, the long-running Taranaki Wars, and the guerrilla war between Te Kooti and his colonial and kupapa adversaries that lasted from 1868 to 1872? There are already monuments associated with these conflicts scattered around New Zealand, but they seldom attract large numbers of visitors. They would make good locations for Anzac Day events.
An Anzac Day which remembered the complex and divisive conflicts of the nineteenth century would be far less susceptible to the sort of jingoism and historical revisionism that unscrupulous politicians promote. John Key's absurd claim that Gallipoli was a battle for freedom which forged a New Zealand national identity would founder against great rocks with names like Rangiriri and Orakau.
Back in the 1970s some young members of the Maori activist group Nga Tamatoa tried to leave wreaths for victims of the Land Wars beside Anzac monuments during dawn ceremonies; they were usually beaten up for their troubles. Today there is greater awareness of New Zealand's nineteenth century history, and of the consequences of the Land Wars for Maori. I don't think the argument that the Land Wars should be remembered on Anzac Day would be an impossibly hard one to make, especially given the fact that Anzac history begins in the Waikato. A well-organised campaign committee could use the media, the internet and public meetings to build support for its cause. Even if the RSA and the government aren't convinced, a campaign could still resonate quite widely and contribute to awareness of and debate about our past.
Tell me why I'm wrong.