Friday, December 23, 2005

Flag-Burning Does Australia

From iron-fisted policing to chain-rattling domestic security to draconian internment of unsavory immigrants
to dovetailing British and American hubris in Iraq, John Howard’s Australia has been a mirror image of George Bush’s America for the last four years. Now add to the list the fury over flag-burning.

Two Australian teens are in jail and have been denied bail for setting an Australian flag on fire. Cleverly, the offense they’re being held for is not the flag-burning as an act in and of itself. Nor have they been charged with stealing, even though they climbed up a private club’s flag pole and took the flag. The two charges are “entering a building with the intent of committing an indictable offence and one of malicious damage by fire.” Is the indictable offense the malicious damage by fire? And malicious to whom, besides Australia’s pride? Protesters routinely burn things in effigy. They’re not generally arrested, unless of course they’re Iranians burning something more domestic than imported, or liberal New Yorkers protesting their government’s infatuation with Mussolini. No, the Australian case is Turkey light. Just as Turkey wanted to put Orhan Pamuk, the writer, on trial for “insulting” Turkish identity (by claiming that Turkey bore responsibility for murdering Armenians and Kurds in separate genocides), Australia’s authorities won’t stand for being insulted, especially not by immigrants (one assumes that the teens are the sons of Lebanese pachas).

The more the West claims to be doing battle for liberty in the face of the East’s regressive assaults, the more the West adopts the methods of repression and regression. Among America’s red states, we have Utah, Nebraska, Texas, Wyoming, so many more… and now Australia, on whose fatal shoals liberty has drawn its latest wreck.