National Anthem Debate Is Not Just An Issue For Americans

For several years now, Americans have locked horns in a heated debate over the National Anthem protests. One side argues that people have a right to peaceful protests wherever and whenever they feel like it, while the other side argues the protests are not appropriate everywhere and are disrespectful to those who serve the nation.

The debate has resulted in job losses, boycott calls and political upheaval. Americans are apparently not the only ones arguing, however. Another country is dealing with the same issue.

Australia is now entering the debate when a schoolgirl refused to stand for their national anthem in school, and she has been threatened with punishment if she doesn't. Her protests were met with mixed reactions across the country down under, with some people supporting the protest and others against it.

Harper Nielsen, a nine-year-old from Brisbane, refused to stand for the schoolwide observance of the country's anthem, "Advance Australia Fair."

Nielsen says she has one particular beef with the lyrics. “Australians all let us rejoice/ for we are young and free," read the lyrics. Nielsen doesn't agree that the country is young.

Indigenous Australians have been arguing for years that the country is not a 'new' or 'young' nation. It did not begin with British colonization in the 18th century. They inhabited the land for tens of thousands of years, and they feel that the modern government is trying to wipe out their culture and history. Nielsen agrees with them, even though she isn't of aboriginal descent.

“I thought about what it would be like to be an Aboriginal person in that situation and I guess that helped me,” said the young girl. “They might feel left out. They might feel upset. Sad.”

Some conservative Australian politicians blasted the child's parents for getting her fired up on the issue. They have blasted the family for allowing their daughter to protest the anthem.

“Here we have a kid is being brainwashed. And I tell you what, I’d give her a kick up the backside," said Pauline Hanson, the founder of a right-wing political party in the country.

Liberal politicians have also been harsh on the family, saying that the parents are just using their daughter as a pawn. “Refusing to stand disrespects our country and our veterans,” he wrote. “Suspension should follow if she continues to act like a brat.”

Mark Nielsen, Harper's father, says his daughter has become more and more concerned with the treatment of indigenous people of her country in the past year. “Anyone who knows Harper know she’s not a kid who can be brainwashed. She’s a very strong-minded and strong-willed young person,” he said.

People from Australia's indigenous community are delighted by the protests. “Her parents should be congratulated for raising a brilliant, thinking young student who won’t be forced to do something that is against her deeply held beliefs,” said Aboriginal elder Sam Watson to The Courier Mail.

Harper says she has been threatened with suspension, but she says that she wouldn't violate her principals on the issue even if she were expelled.

“The school has been respectful of the student’s wishes and has provided other alternatives, including remaining outside the hall or not singing during the national anthem,” read a statement from the Queensland Department of Education. “At no time did the school suggest that the student would be suspended or excluded for refusing to take part in the national anthem.”

Source: NY Times
Photos: You Tube Screenshots

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