Let's keep the flag debate positive
OPINION: As an everyday citizen I am saddened by the negativity within the flag debate.
I understand there will be differences of opinion and that there are always two sides to every story but I struggle with the "keep the flag" brigade being so negative in their approach to the whole issue. Two of the more notable examples of this were the RSA's approach to suggest people invalidate their voting papers and those in the Beehive who have decided to make it a party political issue.
Our brave soldiers fought for a democracy where everyone gets a vote which by implication should be taken seriously. By suggesting people graffiti their voting papers is nothing short of third world and in a way makes the RSA no different to the bullies they fought against. The first referendum was not asking us to change the flag but merely to determine "If the New Zealand flag changes, which flag would you prefer?" Would the NZRFU, Trade and Enterprise or Athletics New Zealand ask their members to invalidate the papers if the boot was on the other foot? I doubt it.
It is also unhelpful of those politicians who have decided to make this a political issue. This is one of those times where the individual should have a personal choice no matter where their political allegiances lie. One of the reasons to change the flag is to rise above such things and to have a flag that represents our diverse nation no matter what our backgrounds and beliefs are.
Positive opinions are fine but when someone tells me they don't want to change the flag because the fern looks like a feather or that the flag should be able to be drawn by a child or that we should first become a republic I feel sad.
The fact that people want to derail the process with issues such as these is disappointing. After all the fern has worked well as our national symbol for over a hundred years. And how many children could accurately draw two of the world's most recognisable flags, the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack? As for the republic thing, there are a number of commonwealth countries that have changed their flag but still retain their allegiance to the Queen without any difficulty. Canada and Jamaica are two examples that immediately spring to mind.
"It's a jack up to take the focus off TPPA", "It's a John Key vanity project", "The issue has been foisted upon us" are all negative, unconstructive arguments and give no reason as to why we shouldn't change the flag. After all the government could have simply gone ahead without a referendum and foisted a flag upon us. We should be positive and thankful we live in a country where we get to vote on such things without them being forced upon us.
It's also very negative and unhelpful to have the so called experts come out and say the Lockwood design looks like clip art or cut and paste. Sure not everyone is going to like the design but we were given several months to submit ideas and if the experts are so appalled at what they see where were their options? The design was never going to be perfect in everyone's eyes but our flag needs to reflect what the people want.
Red Peak is a classic example. Many of the so-called experts think it's a brilliant design but those that voted wanted a fern. It wouldn't have mattered if there were a hundred Red Peaks a fern of some description was always going to be chosen.
Of course there are those with the really "helpful" assertion that we choose a fern because that's what John Key wanted!
Many everyday Kiwis, politicians, sports people and those in trade see our similarity with the Australian flag a hindrance. So to be told "Chad and Romania have the same flag but haven't changed so why should we?" is again unhelpful and irrelevant. Those countries have absolutely no similarity to the situation we have with our neighbours across the ditch.
Then there are the simple untruths like "Why are we going through this process when no other countries bother?" The Commonwealth is made up of 53 members, many of which have changed their flag. If I was to name those who don't feature the Union Jack the list would be 49 countries long. Only four Commonwealth countries still retain the Union Jack as part of their flag: Tuvalu, Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand and Fiji is in the process of changing.
So please retainees, give us the positive reasons and not the negatives as to why we should retain the flag, I know the pro change people will. The money ($5.60 per citizen), the JK vanity claims and whether we should have had one or two referendums are all behind us now. We finally have two flags to choose from, so over the next few weeks, no matter what our other beliefs or allegiances are let's be positive and focus on what flag best represents all of us as a maturing nation.
For me it's about time we featured our national symbol on our national flag. So I'm voting for change, no one has yet to give me a positive and beneficial reason not to.