So there was a thing called “World War I” though they didn’t call it that because they didn’t know there’d be a second one so they called it “The Great War”, the poor damned fools.
They didn’t know what they were talking about. The Great War wasn’t great it was rubbish.
It ran from 1914 to 1918 and killed 37 million people in ever-hideous ways because they were using 19th century tactics to fight 20th century machine guns and tanks and bombs and gas in mud.
If you didn’t agree that Australians should fight for Britain in Europe or that God said Thou Shalt Not Kill and you believed it – or if you just didn’t want to die – you ticked the box marked “Conscientious Objector”.
In the Australian way they were called “Conshies” and they were roundly loathed, labelled cowards and traitors and worse.
They sent them white feathers in the post because they didn’t have Twitter.
Hundred years later San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the US national anthem and the nationalists on Fox News fired up the corrupt lying douchebag of a President who reckoned owners should say “Get that son of a bitch off the field”.
Similarly, there’ll be those who believe Cody Walker and Josh Addo-Carr are disrespecting Australia by not singing our national anthem in State of Origin on Wednesday night.
But these people, like Trump, on purpose and otherwise, will be missing the point.
Taking a knee, not singing – they’re acts of patriotism. Borne of desire to make the country better.
We should understand what it takes for a person to come to this decision.
We should ask them and others like them why.
And we should hear them out.
And we should acknowledge this: it takes balls to make a stand (even on a knee), just as it took balls to tick the Conshie box on the war form.
Kaepernick sat down originally during the American anthem and no-one really noticed, until they did.
Then a veteran, a US Army Green Beret, offended, sought Kaepernick out. And he heard him out. And asked why he was doing it.
And a funny thing happened: the men got along.
But it’s not that odd. People are lots more likely to get along talking face to face over a bottle of wine, say, than two people effectively texting each other like dots on a GPS map, as we do in the anti-socials, poor damned fools we are.
And so they talked and found middle ground. And the Marine suggested that Kaepernick could still honour the flag and the country and the veterans who fought for it, and make his point, by taking a knee.
And so Kaepernick took a knee and made a stand for his people.
And his point? Black lives matter. American cops shoot black people at a rate of 3:1 to white people. Police kill a thousand Americans a year.
Black people have to have “the talk” with their teenage sons to tell they’re going to be looked at a certain way by police, and if they don’t want to die, they should do X, Y and Z.
And that’s obviously no way to run a rodeo. So Kaepernick sat down. And then took a knee. And they’re still killing black kids, but at least people agree that it’s bad.
Which brings us, of course, to our Cody and our Josh, and their stance to not sing Australia’s national anthem at Suncorp Wednesday night. They reckon the song doesn’t represent Aboriginal people and lots of other Aboriginal people agree.
And if you think about it, they’re probably right.
There’s certainly no mention of the people who were on this great hot rock 60,000 years before Captain Cook turned up with a flag.
Indigenous Australians compare unfavourably in all manner of markers – life expectancy, infant mortality, incarceration, diabetes, heart disease, youth suicide – to their fellow Australians, and as the Fairfax papers are doing, it’s time we had the chat.
And if Cody and Josh reckon not singing our anthem makes a point – as it clearly has – then good luck to them.
Takes balls. Good on ’em.
They didn’t sing it during the All Stars match and Johnathan Thurston reckons it was “brushed over”.
Mal Meninga said: “It is time for the Australian people, I believe, to have another conversation about their national anthem”.
“We expect Kangaroos players to sing the national anthem, but I’m also in favour of the fact, if it is offensive to indigenous Australians, let’s have a discussion about it.”
And that’s what we need. Australia needs a version of that Green Beret to have a yarn with Cody and Josh and JT, and other Australian who doesn’t feel that the anthem represents them, and find out why, and what we can do.
To see if we can help. To even agree.
To see if we can meet in the middle ground.
As to whether they should sing it, please. Free country. People can choose to sing or not.
Their business. Their freedom to do as they please within the laws of this great southern land.
No bastard used to sing the bastard anyway.
Why do we sing the national anthem before state games? Or grand finals or Anzac Day or All Stars and Maori, whatever?
We didn’t used to. It came from those study tours of the US, the ones that brought back golden point.
Used to be Australians thought that stuff was so much unctuous horseshit. A Seppo thing, suckin’ the flag.
Maybe too strong. It’s only a song.
But Origin was better when the pre-match entertainment was a cane toad chasing a cockroach with a fire extinguisher.
When the first you saw of the players was them running out, bristling, rolling arms, bunching shoulders, warriors before battle. And then they’d just get into it.
Today they run out and link arms and sing a song – or not, as is their right.
How do you stay fired-up if you spend the moments after running out singing our dirge of an anthem?
And how do you find out why two Aussies would not sing the Aussie anthem?
Send in the Green Berets.