We cancelled some Anzac Day services this year. So what. Why the outrage?

It's been baffling to witness the overreaction.

Anzac Day service regulars are angry. Former ACT MP Heather Roy started a petition urging us to "Resist Anzac Day Restrictions, attend and march". And Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere announced he was "deeply upset".


Again, why the outrage?

Wasn't this year so abnormal that we could accommodate the cancellations? Have we so quickly moved on from the worst massacre in New Zealand's recent history?

The Christchurch mosque shooting happened only six weeks ago. Evidence suggests the six weeks after a shooting is the most high-risk. That's when a copy-cat or reprisal attack is most likely. On Anzac Day, we were still in that danger.

The cancellations are not the start of some sort of pattern. They are a reaction to an awful, recent event. All things being equal, Anzac Day will be back to normal next year.

Objectors have camouflaged their concerns. They've warned us terrorists win if we start changing the way we live. Or, that the Anzacs themselves would never let fear of a shooter put them off a service. Or, they've pulled the old thin-end-of-the-wedge trick with a question like Tamihere's: "Do we really want armed police the norm at Anzac ceremonies?"

Well, adapting to threat is a necessary survival instinct, we're not Anzacs on a battlefield and there's no suggestion this will become the norm.

In truth, I wonder if many objectors' real worry is that the country's changing. Maybe they want to believe the Christchurch shooting was a one-off that will never happen again. Maybe they just want to continue trying to forget what happened on March 15. Maybe the cancellations are one change too many.

Truth is, we've been asked to accept a lot of change since that day. Increased security. A possible new name for the Crusaders rugby team. Moving Wellington's Cuba Dupa festival indoors. Pukerua Bay RSA proposing to include - then abandoning - a Muslim Prayer in the dawn service.


So maybe the fierce determination to plough on with all the Anzac Day events is simply a resistance to so much change.

It makes sense. Anzac Day services represent the opposite of change. They're like annual anchors to a time none of us experienced but which we're sure was simpler. They're so traditional they could be transported back to 1919 and not feel out of place.

Anzac Day, when we sing hymns and chant Christian prayers, and remember strapping Pākeha and Māori lads who went off war to fight for the goodies.

But things have changed.

So, maybe even the most traditional and nostalgic thing we do in this country also needs to download an update.

I'm not sure Anzac Day dawn services reflect modern New Zealand very well. Where are the prayers for the Muslim Kiwi soldiers who've gone off to war for us? Or the prayers for the Jewish, Hindu or Sikh Kiwi soldiers, if there have been any?

We remember the veterans of World War I and II, but are we perhaps overlooking the Vietnam Veterans? Or the soldiers who fought in the Middle East, Afghanistan, East Timor, Iraq?

The days of the Christian, mainly Pākeha and Māori New Zealand are over. The days of soldiers looking like my white, British Army officer grandfather are over.

Given the overreaction to this year's cancellations, and the outrage at Pukerua Bay's proposed inclusion of the Muslim prayer, it's probably too much to ask that next year's Dawn Services start reflecting a modern New Zealand. But that time's coming.