Deb and I were driving home the other day when we passed a car that was literally covered with the Australian flag. They had somehow managed to run the flag down from under the rear window, over the boot and down to freely fly over the bumper bar. They'd cut out a nice rectangle sized hole to pop the licence plate through and there was a white Southern Cross decal over the back window. Over each door flew a little Aussie flag, four in all.. making it, without a doubt, the most patriotic car I've seen so far as the Australia Day holiday approaches.
The only trouble is, that that kind of patriotism makes me get a little buzz of something akin to fear in the pit of my stomach.
Whenever I see our flag plastered over a car or a house, or indeed a person's body I get kind of wary about the sort of person I'm interacting with. Do they fly the flag out of the love of our diversity as a country, or a deep fear of that very same thing? I often wonder about the whole "Australia - Love it or leave it!" sentiment. That worries me too. I think one of the things that makes a better country is the right to be able to criticise it and even to dislike certain facets of it. That ensures you don't blindly exist in a cultural vacuum and can see where things need to be improved or changed.
I guess I'm leery because I'm not quite sure when the flag fliers' national pride crosses the line and becomes something for me to personally fear. Do they recognise my right to be who and what I am, or will they angrily pigeonhole everything that they don't agree with as being un-Australian? As an out lesbian, does my gayness offend them to the brink of violence? Would they sit and they scoff at my vegetarian tofu skewers sizzling on their BBQ? Would they run my Buddhist arse down with that flag bedecked car if they had the chance? Does that Southern Cross tattooed on their shoulder speak of a universal cosmic kind of tolerance, or a fear that the country's going to be overtaken by dykes and fags and Greens supporters?
This Australia Day as we fire up our own BBQ under the rainbow pride flag bought as a souvenir from Mardi Gras, I find I want more than to be just tolerated as a minority around here; I want us to be accepted totally for the unique and diverse slice of Australian life that we are.
So in our neighbourhood, the rainbow flag will proudly be flying - even if it's against the wind.