It's Australia Day today. Jan 26th. Kinda like the Fourth of July, except... well, we don't have a war of independence or anything patriotic and macho like that to celebrate for our national day. So instead it's the anniversary of the arrival of the first British settlement on these shores in 1788. Captain Arthur Phillip in his nice blue Royal Navy uniform, if you believe the portraits. Convicts, Royal Marines and a whole lot of blokes with rum. Rum was important. We had a Rum Rebellion once. How cool is that?
Anyway. Some people say we shouldn't be celebrating a day that led to ruin, disease, displacement and death for many indigenous Australians. They think we should choose another day to celebrate our national day. I can see their point. But be that as it may, and whatever day we celebrate, I believe we've still got a whole lot to be thankful for.
I'm thankful that we were once a British colony, because they gave us representative government and the common law, even if it means we've still got the Union Jack on our flag and a few assholes down at Cronulla like to wear it while they take out their dumb hatred on others.
I'm thankful for hot summers and lazy school holidays spent in the garden, at the beach or down at the swimming pool, even if it means we've still got the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and I've never seen a white Christmas. And I'm thankful for winters that aren't six foot deep in snow, even if it means that I can't ski and have never ice-skated on a lake.
For great Aussie food, for vindaloo, pad thai, gyros and turkish pida, for fish and chips, tapas, tandoori chicken, spaghetti bolognese and moussaka, shish kebab and chilli con carne and lamb chops on the barbie. You bring it here, we'll eat it like it's our own.
For Aussie Rules football in the winter, for speckies and meat pies with tomato sauce and Lloydie's mark of the century. For Ashes cricket, Warnie's Gatting Ball and Freddie Flintoff consoling Brett Lee, for John Aloisi ripping his shirt off in celebration when the Socceroos made the World Cup, for that crazy ice skating guy who won Olympic Gold when everyone else fell over.
For gun laws that mean it's practically illegal to own a firearm, even if it means only criminals have got them, because it means I can walk down the street at night without fear. I'm thankful that I can still switch on free-to-air tv and watch the Aussies thrash Pakistan at cricket, and then go down the pub for a lemonade or two with my Pakistani mates without anyone beating the crap out of anyone else.
For long haul flights and six-hour layovers at Singapore Airport on the way to London, for being so bloody far away from the rest of the world that going anywhere is the adventure of a lifetime. And for that gorgeous scent of eucalyptus that hits you when you step off the plane in Sydney or Melbourne, that fragrant air and blue sky that means you're home at last.
For simple, quick, transparent elections that can't be bought by the highest bidder, at least not on national tv. For a government that can't lock me up without trial and a judicial system that can't execute me or torture me or make me incriminate myself. For a minimum wage, single digit unemployment, a welfare system that won't let me starve and a health system that doesn't ask me to swipe my credit card.
For clean air, clean water and ample living space, when so much of the rest of the world has none of them.
So say what you want about Invasion Day or whatever. We all live here. This is our country. And we've got it pretty good down here.