Recently I was sent a reminder about Happy Friends’ Day. What?? Yet another ‘Happy’ day? Is everything going to be reduced to Happy Something Day? Already we have a long list of ‘Happies’: Happy Birthday, Happy Mother’s Day, Happy Father’s Day, Happy Valentine’s Day, Happy New Year, Happy Australia Day, Happy Halloween and on it goes. The Happy Hounds are forever sniffing out a new day to Happify. They’ll latch onto anything. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day soon I receive an invitation to celebrate Happy Big Toe Day!
Those Hounds have even sniffed out Anzac Day. Yes. It’s true. One Anzac Day, I heard people greeting each other with ‘Happy Anzac Day’. During my extended cringe at hearing this, I imagined the ghosts of Gallipoli soldiers rolling their eyes in disgust and saying: “It was all for bloody nothin’. Those twits have no idea!”
I attended the Anzac Service in Byron Bay in 2015 when I visited the area to research the setting of A Devious Mind. The bugler was silhouetted against the dawn sky and the final plaintive bars of The Last Post were waning when I spoke to a young lad who had recently made the pilgrimage to Gallipoli. He was a similar age to many of the Gallipoli soldiers, some of whom were between 14 and 16 years old. Looking at his fresh young face as he spoke of how he had experienced a little of the conditions the Anzacs had endured on the battlefield stirred in me a profound sadness at the thought of mere boys ‘bent double, like old beggars under sacks, knock-kneed, coughing like hags…’. The realisation of ‘the pity of war’ brought tears to my eyes that morning.
Do we, the ones who inherited the legacy of a free and democratic society in a ‘sunburnt country’, really want to dishonour the Anzacs by glibly chanting Happy Anzac Day? (Don’t forget the cheesy grin that goes with that.) Such a greeting effectively shifts the focus of Anzac Day from those who served − to ourselves. We want to make sure we all have a ‘happy’ day. That’s how we show respect to those who served our country? Can this be true? I thought it was the day we paused to honour and remember the service people who died, who suffered physical injuries and mental trauma, who lived, worked and fought in horrific conditions. Do we really want to reduce Anzac Day to some slick greeting card level?
Someone needs to tell the Happy Hounds to stop sniffing around Anzac Day. The appropriate greeting on April 25th is: Lest We Forget.