Two nations stood side by side in remembrance yesterday in honour of all those men and women who have fought and died in armed conflict. It was, as always, a somber reflection of the tragedy of war and our coming together should be seen as a strong statement that we shall never again let such tragedies befall us. ANZAC Day does not glorify war, rather it provides us space, as a nation, to reflect on the enormity of war. It is a day steeped in tradition and in respect for what the day represents. Every ANZAC Day, we can be truly proud to be a New Zealander – not because we have fought and died in foreign wars, but because we stand together on this day, united in our respect for everything ANZAC Day stands for.
Which is in direct contrast to how our other national day of remembrance is perceived. February 6 marks the yearly anniversary of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Waitangi Day should command the same respect as ANZAC Day in the New Zealand psyche. The fact that it does not speaks volumes as to the priorities of New Zealanders. We value our participation in a worthless war, and an unwise invasion that ended as an unmitigated disaster, more than we do the very formation of our nation.
What makes ANZAC day special to a lot of New Zealanders is that we all have relatives who fought and died in World War I or World War II. It is a deeply personal day of remembrance, a day to remember ancestors who fought and died to protect the British Empire from the forces of evil. For Māori, this is precisely what Waitangi Day is also about. Waitangi Day is our day of remembrance. It is our day to remember our ancestors who fought and died to protect our homeland from the forces of evil. Just as ANZAC Day reminds us of the horrors of war and provides hope for a peaceful future, Waitangi Day reminds Māori of the both the tragedy of colonisation and the possibility of a more peaceful future in our own lands.
I live in hope that New Zealand will one day come to value Waitangi Day in much the same way that it does ANZAC day.