Shut up and wave the flag
Two peace activists were denied entry to Parliamentary grounds today
during the Government’s Vietnam War event. This in the day after the
Wellington High Court upheld the convictions against Valerie Morse and
another activist for burning the flag and disrupting the speech of the
Secretary of Defence on ANZAC day in 2007.
The first person denied entry to Parliament grounds is a Quaker peace
activist who worked in Vietnam for 2 years during the war as a civilian.
He had officially registered to participate in the government’s ceremonies
at a cost of $95. He marched at the back of the parade with a wreath
dedicated to the “Vietnamese civilians killed in the war.” When he
approached the Parliamentary grounds, he was told that he was not allowed
The other person approached the Parliamentary gates after attending a
small silent vigil on Lambton Quay. Carrying a sign that said, “Helen
Clark, Phil Goff: 1974: Anti-war activists; 2008: military recruiters,”
the woman was blockaded from entering the gates and told she would be
issued with a trespass notice. When she replied that it was a public
space and asked why she was not allowed to enter, she was told only that
“she was not allowed.” A filmmaker on the public footpath outside of the
gates of Parliament was also warned. The woman was then formally turned
away from Parliament grounds.
The actions of Parliamentary security are hardly surprising. The
government will spare no effort in extinguishing dissent on the left, no
matter how small or ‘legal.’ In the run up to the election, Labour is
determined to illustrate that ‘there is no alternative’ to its re-election
by continuing to carefully brand itself ‘left’ while occupying a space
ever further to the political right.
More to the point, however, is that these tactics are not unique to a
particular political party. They are part and parcel of the maintenance of
state control through violence and a manufactured national identity
constructed through war mythology.
The ANZAC day ruling demonstrates the intolerance of the state for any
actual challenge to its hegemonic discourse. The High Court Justice Miller
upheld the convictions in the flag-burning case saying that the protest
‘went to far.’ Justice Miller’s opinion that handing out leaflets and
giving away free food was fine, but actually challenging anyone’s ideas,
particularly the government’s was offensive behaviour. In fact, he
suggested that some might consider it an act of ‘desecration’ so high was
the symbolic value of the act of burning the flag.
By his ruling, he declared that ANZAC day is too sacred for criticism.
Noting that the day is bathed in the “aura of dignity and respect,” the
High Court Justice effectively removed it from the realm of any debate.
ANZAC day is precisely what the Government says it is: a day of
commemoration; just as today’s Vietnam ceremony was a “commemoration,” a
place inappropriate for political debate.
The placing of military ceremony into the realm of the sacred is a clever
tactic indeed. No longer can anyone be blamed for what actually happens;
it is enough to say it happened, it was horrible; let us remember those
poor soldiers who had to endure it. But under no circumstances should we
draw any comparisons to Afghanistan today or illustrate any hypocrisy,
like the failure of the government to acknowledge the thousands of
ordinary people exposed to the same chemicals in Agent Orange, compliments
of the Ivor Watkins Dow Chemical plant in New Plymouth.
No no, we can no longer think, we must simply shut up and raise the flag.