Opinion: Anzac Day 'shout down' went against dignified remembrance

OPINION: Anzac Day is threatening to become a cult, but there's still a chance to save it.

The actions of 12-year-old Anzac devotee James Broome-Isa in Wellington on Tuesday not only made headlines here, but also across the Tasman.

His 'shout-down' against anti-war protesters was broadcast on Sky News Australia with much fanfare, and appeared to fit in perfectly with that network's blanket 'Anzackery'-themed coverage of Anzac Day commemorations.

'Anzackery' is a term coined by Australian historian Geoff Searle in 1967 to decry the national myth-building that surfaces each Anzac Day, the main one being that Australia and New Zealand were somehow 'born' at Gallipoli in 1915.

The once-sacrosanct day in Australia has fast turned into a celebration, a de facto national day to revel in so-called national values. Mr Searle would be disappointed in what Anzac Day has become in Australian society - it is now an anglo-saxon styled cult or religion.

On occasion, it threatens to become this in New Zealand as well, and James Broome-Isa's 'shout down' is a worrying symptom of it.

We all understand why the anti-war protesters were at the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington yesterday. Afghan civilians who were allegedly killed because of the actions of New Zealand SAS soldiers were not part of the official remembrance programme.

The anti-war protesters decided Anzac Day would be the perfect day to make their point, but they wouldn't have counted on facing the wrath of a 12-year-old Anzac devotee, pumped up with Anzackery-level fervour running through his veins.

James may or may not believe that New Zealand was 'born' on the hills above Anzac Cove, but it's obvious he has a great passion and respect for our military history, and will openly defend it with those who dare question its authenticity.

I get James -  I was just like him when I was his age and have prayed in the Anzac church most of my life. I hope James becomes a military historian or something similar one day, but I also hope he learns what Anzackery is and how to avoid it.

Let's keep our dignified remembrance intact and not let it become infected by nationalist virtues.

As a nation, we need to take stock of what we actually remember each Anzac Day and throw out the myths, legends and hype that inevitably come with it.

Just look across the Tasman to see how puffed up and commercialised Anzac Day has become - we don't want that here.

It is a special day - but war is only a part of our history.

There is so much more to get passionate about.

Tony Wright is a senior Newshub reporter and producer.

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