My mind’s been working over-time over where I stand in the flag debate? As a foreign born New Zealand citizen who faithfully took an oath to observe the laws of New Zealand and fulfil my duties as a New Zealand citizen, I decided that it was my duty to seriously consider the flag under which not just me but my descendants will hopefully make a positive difference in this world.
While I do love our current flag, I love the silver fern. If I were to choose a new design, it is my view that Kyle Lockwood’s red triangle with silver design could in future have helped us look back and remember the founding of the Treaty of Waitangi and our Commonwealth connection. To me the red represented both the British and Maori forebearers and the life-giving blood that flows through every New Zealander regardless of what country they originate from; the multiple points of the fern leaf of course representing multicultural society, a single fern spreading upwards represents that we are all one people growing onward into the future.
The black triangle of the same flag brings to mind unfortunate pictures of pirate ships and the ISIS militant group. No matter how hard I want to I don’t feel the colours work well together for a flag. But the democracy has voted and perhaps I will grow to love it, should the flag be chosen.
To have an open mind, I have tossed and turned, researched various viewpoints before coming up with a considered decision. Trolling through several writings and opinions in the media, the battle of the flags (existing or new) is fought on two fronts. Those that do not support a flag change say that the existing flag has meaning and history. Writers like Bruce Logan put this case forward well and explain that the Union Jack in the top left-hand corner recalls our historical and legal origin. It reinforces the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Southern Cross tells us where we are.
On the other side of the spectrum are those that believe that now is the time for change and as a stronger, newer and more vibrant nation we need to move forward. We are no longer under the roof of Mother England, they say.
Both points of view have their pros and cons; both sides of the argument moving me from one side to the next.
We all know that change for the sake of change is not of use to anyone. Research shows that countries that have changed their flags had a reason to do so. Canada changed her flag at a time of turmoil and threat to unify her nation. India (my birth land) changed her flag to symbolize that she was free of the tyranny and the control of the then British Government.
Unlike Canada, we are not under internal threat; unlike India, Britain is no longer the strong, arrogant and stubborn power she once was. However, if a majority of New Zealanders want to change the flag, then we should get on and move forward. But let’s do it with a purpose that is stronger than “Because our flag is too similar to Australia” (Why then can’t Australia not change her flag), or “Because we are not under Britain anymore” (Technically we are, should we therefore become a republic first, and is there any benefit for us in doing so at this point in time), or “the All-Blacks represent the Black colour and the fern, and so our flag should change.”
If the current alternate design is the flag that we choose, let’s come up with, and explain to our children the true meaning of the fern and the Southern Cross.
One of the clearest messages of the meaning of a flag, or the need for a flag that represents a land, came from Mahatma Gandhi, a true hero and a peaceful warrior who took on and defeated Mother England. When India was going through a flag debate he said this: “A flag is a necessity for all nations. Millions have died for it. It is no doubt a kind of idolatry which would be a sin to destroy. For, a flag represents an Ideal: The unfurling of the Union Jack evokes in the English breast sentiments whose strength it is difficult to measure. The Stars and Stripes mean a world to the Americans. The Star and the Crescent will call forth the best bravery in Islam…It will be necessary for us Indians – Muslims, Christians Jews, Parsis, and all others to whom India is their home-to recognize a common flag to live and to die for.”
Change for the sake of change is not of use to anyone. If we were to change, I say to you New Zealanders, young and old, immigrants or not, black brown or white, religious or non-religious, gay or straight, and to all others to whom New Zealand is or will be their home and the home of their children, let’s recognize a common flag that’s not just a marketing logo, but a flag that will instill in us a sense of positive pride, integrity and strength of character, a flag that we will be proud to live and die for.
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(Sneha Gray is a writer, former journalist and dream catcher based in the sunny Bay of Plenty)