By Joe Hildebrand of news.com.au
There is something particularly ghoulish about using Anzac Day to attack the legacy of fallen soldiers. It's a bit like gatecrashing the funeral of a stranger and trying to seize the microphone during the eulogy.
Yet every year someone manages to do it. Indeed some, like Australian comedian Catherine Deveny, have almost made a profession of it.
And Deveny's contribution to public debate this year is a personal best, even by her own boneheaded benchmark, oscillating between brainless obscenities and meaningless academic jargon that one suspects she doesn't even understand.
Hence she has publicly declared Anzac Day "f***ing disgusting" and "bulls***" and even the cause of her physical pain: "As it gets closer, my head feels tighter and tighter and I feel more and more nauseous. I blame the collective cognitive dissonance seeping in."
She went on: "I abhor Anzac Day and can't wait til it's over. I am so delighted to hear the chorus increasing every year saying 'Anzac Day is bulls***. It's a Trojan horse for racism, sexism, toxic masculinity, violence, homophobia and discrimination'."
She also added for good measure that serving in the defence force was "no more dangerous or prone to upheaval than many other jobs" and was in fact no service at all but "part of the fetishisation of war and violence".
Now I am not calling for Deveny to be banned from making such comments nor even to apologise for them. Nor do I wish her to be sacked from whatever job she may still be holding down or as facilitator of her next basket-weaving workshop.
All I wish to say is this: She is wrong. She is so profoundly wrong that one can only assume that she is wilfully ignorant or wilfully cruel.
Anyone who thinks that Anzac Day glorifies or fetishises war or violence has clearly never been to an Anzac Day ceremony. They are the most solemn, sad and reflective occasions we have.
And this was never better expressed than in the exquisitely beautiful speech delivered by Retired Colonel Susan Neuhaus at the Australian War Memorial today, in which the veteran surgeon spoke of "a century of severed limbs and broken bodies". Severed limbs she has witnessed and broken bodies she has tried to mend.
That is what she reflected upon today as Australians and New Zealanders marked 100 years since perhaps the ugliest and most brutal war on earth. A war in which men were crammed into lice and vermin-infested trenches, where their feet would rot in their boots and from which, after weeks or months of unimaginable suffering, they would be sent over the top to be shot to death or split apart by shrapnel.
Deveny opposes and even abuses the commemoration of these brave and sorry souls and then complains about feeling nauseous because of "collective cognitive dissonance".
That, ironically enough, is the very definition of cognitive dissonance.
This year's Anzac March in Australia was also defined by a landmark decision to place women at the head of the parade in order to highlight their growing contribution to the military and their vital historic role in wars past, underscored by the keynote address of Ret. Col. Neuhaus, and splashed across newspaper front pages.
Meanwhile Deveny accuses it of "sexism" and "toxic masculinity".
This year's commemorations also actively focused on the critical historic role played by indigenous servicemen and the injustices they faced at the time.
Meanwhile Deveny cries racism.
It would be impossible for anyone with even a passing interest in Anzac Day not to know this, which again suggests that Deveny has either an unprecedented capacity for ignorance or simply craves attention so much that she is prepared to use the corpses of fallen soldiers as fodder.
Incidentally, it is worth noting here that soldiers in World War I lived so closely with corpses that they started literally communing with dead bodies. Here is one account from a Canadian digger: "We are all used to dead bodies or pieces of men, so much so that we are not troubled by the sight of them. There was a right hand sticking out of the trench in the position of a man trying to shake hands with you, and as the men filed out they would often grip it and say, 'So long, old top, we'll be back again soon.'"
Just imagine, if you can, the sort of impact that would have on a human being.
One is tempted to ask if that is what Deveny calls "fetishisation" but of course it is all but certain she has no such knowledge of war and certainly no imagination of it. If she did she would not begrudge those who had suffered such fates to reunite with old comrades and tend to old wounds.
In short, Deveny is at best a fool. More likely she is a cruel fool. She hardly even deserves the attention I have given her here but this column is not for her, it is for all the servicemen and women whose sacrifice she besmirches.