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Why I would not like the rise of the Anzac Bunny

rise of the easter bunny

Today I surprised myself when a pilot friend and Vietnam veteran sent me two links:

Pilot Lou Rochat describes his helicopter being shot down in Vietnam

Pilot Lou Rochat at the memorial wall four decades later

At the back of my mind as I watched Lou's story were my friend's words regarding Lou's ultimate fate 

'Lou passed away in 2010 – 39 years after he was shot down – ultimately as a consequence of the wounds he’d received' 

There something very moving about Lou, something about the way he spoke about that day decades ago when he survived an RPG to the tail boom of his helicopter - flipping the helicopter onto it's back and into the ground below. Even more moving was seeing Lou standing at the memorial wall speaking about his dead crew as he touched their names engraved in black marble. 

Made me think about my mate who also flew over those same jungles and was a stick buddy with Lou on Army pilots course some forty years ago. Made me appreciate the fact that I get to work, talk and laugh with him - a living legend - when most now have to go to the internet or documentaries if they want an insight into a Vietnam warriors past. Made me almost - only almost - feel bad for teasing him about his age and his mandated 'secondary means of magnification' when night flying - a really large Sherlock Holmes type magnifying glass (apparently the aviation legislators and doctors will only let him fly at night with his sixty something eyes if he has a back-up to his lawyer specs). Made me think of my granddad and my opa who were soldiers on opposite sides in world war II.

Made me also think of my Father-in-Law who flew Hueys in Vietnam. I suddenly realised as I read that I had never passed on the respect I felt for the extremely large thing he did when he went over there. Wrote him a quick email which went like this:

"Just watched some very moving footage from another vietnam vet and fellow pilot DT (about a buddy of his that died a few years ago). Sometimes it's easy to forget what ANZAC day (Or Remembrance Day) is all about: the people who were friends, team-mates, dads, sons, brothers who fought, bled or died for something bigger than themselves. As I watched I realised that despite our many conversations involving  your 'grumpy old man' cynicism and my 'save the world' realistic optimism I had never acknowledged the very real and very large thing you did by going to Vietnam. 

So here goes, If you are marching today, you have from me an earnest and sincere salute. I count it an honour to still be able to chat with a living legend and I also count it an honour to have you as family and although we don't always see eye to eye I thank God for you.

All the best mate as you mingle with other old warriors…"

I guess I was surprised that I had never recognised this before and surprised at my own emotional reaction. I've never endured the intensity of combat that these guys have although I have been on not a few overseas deployments and had not a few memorable ANZAC days overseas... and yet here I was getting all man-teary over the shared vid-links. 

Then I was surprised by this apparently incongruous thought: I would not like it if there was an ANZAC Bunny. 

Please bear with me at this point as I realise this thought jars a bit with the solemnity of what I just said and perhaps appears as some sort of cheap humour - but I really do mean it to be serious. I would not like it if commercial wags or marketers decided ANZAC Day could be harvested for commercial profits. I would not like it if they got their creative artists together and birthed a new character in like manner to Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny to help sell stuff on ANZAC Day. I would not like it if there were an ANZAC Bunny (or ANZAC [insert commercial icon of choice here]).

I would like it even less if, in an attempt to capture the sentiment of ANZAC and carefully extricate it from it's historical and national context, thus avoiding potentially prickly multicultural discord, the creation of an imaginary figure like the ANZAC Bunny was to evoke the sentiment of the day while ignoring the very real - and potentially prickly - spirit of the day.  

Perhaps it would all start off with best intentions. Perhaps it would be under the banner of 'tolerance' and 'cultural sensitivity'. After all do we really want to remember the Spirit of ANZAC which is the spirit of thousands of real experiences, real mates lost, real mates injured, real heroics and yes real failures when the kids and grandkids of the 'enemy' now live with us. No, no, this can't be, let's instead focus on the sentiment, the feelings that come when mates get together to drink to mateship and hope and such. Let's keep things happily neutral.

What better way to do that then to invent a figure that will de-sting the past nastiness of wartime without losing the sentiment of the day. 

Yep, the ANZAC Bunny will do just fine… 

And so over time, through a combination of programmed irrelevancing, and sentimentalisation, the ANZAC Bunny does his work and soon there is a social frown when one dares to bring out the specifics of wartime experience and a social nod when one talks merely about the good feelings, the family holiday, the hope, the festive cheer etc. 

Interviewers go to the street for 'what does ANZAC Day mean to you' type stories and pretty much all the responses are 'Oh, a good time to have beers with friends' and 'Turkey!' (the food not the country) and 'a special time for family' and 'I love the way the shops are all decorated' and 'the yummy ANZAC biccys' and 'a sense of hope'. Responses like 'It means remembering soldiers who bled and died for us and our freedoms' are either edited out or met with a kind of cringey 'oh not that old agenda again'. 

Soon they even make movies for kids and one movie is called the Rise of the ANZAC Bunny in which the ANZAC Bunny is the one who kids are encouraged to thank for ANZAC Day. He  leaves ANZAC biccys everywhere and when kids find them they get all tingly and hopeful and 'believe' in him. He, his friend the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are apparently the hope-bringers and the new stars of the season - not soldiers. 

The bunny movies, the advertising and the mythology has not even one specific mention of the real reason for the season - honouring soldiers bleeding and dying and sacrificing in overseas countries for freedom and for causes far bigger than themselves.

I would not like the rise of the ANZAC Bunny at all.

It would be profoundly demeaning to guys like Lou, my friend, my father in law, my granddad and my opa - in ways that don't even need explaining. 

On ANZAC Day we don't salute a bunny and neither should we at Easter - but that's another story...

For today, my salutes are for Lou, my friend, my father in law, my granddad, my opa, may serving mates and ultimately the one who bled and died for all of us...

'Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends'. 

 © pastoringpilot@reformplease.com