I’ve heard it at parties, read it on social media and have had it shouted to my face in anger. Most recently I saw it on the Australia Day status of one of my friends. “Sovereignty has never been ceded by Australia’s Aboriginal people”, it read. “I cannot celebrate today until we, as a nation, recognise and realise that this is Aboriginal land and move to repair years of neglect and oppression.” Clicking comments, I wish I could say I was shocked. But nonetheless, it was there: “If you don’t love this country, leave it”.
Love it or leave it? Doing a quick Google search, I discovered that this phrase was both a nationalist slogan of the Brazilian military dictatorship and an American pro-war slogan during the Vietnam War. This soon led me to wonder: why is this obviously outdated phrase being used by a Facebook troll with an Australian flag as his profile photo?
The slogan of “love it or leave it” was famously featured on anAustralian flag singlet at Woolworths in October 2014 and is clearly still part of our “patriotic” vernacular. It seems that when we make any criticism of our country – its values, its government or its society – we are not “loving” it and should therefore be evicted. This mentality – akin to a fascist government where any sort of objection or analysis is seen as an attack – is not patriotic, as many people would like to believe, but rather paranoid and defensive to the extreme.
Whether it’s bringing up Australia’s numerous human rights violations with its treatment of asylum seekers, the government’s handling of climate change or the Australian community’s underlying issues of race, in the eyes of many, we are attacking their nation and by extension, themselves. Rather than face their own issues or listen to criticisms by minorities, too many people jump to the conclusion that any form of speech against the nation warrants expulsion and silencing.
For People of Colour, the implications of “love it or leave it” are far more severe than for the average Anglo-Saxon Australian. Rarely are white Australians told that if they criticise the government, they should deport themselves, and even if they are it does not hold the same venom as it does for newer immigrants (see: “go back to where you came from”). “Love it or leave it” empowers patriotic, conservative white Australians to decide which People of Colour can stay and which should go, based on their “love of Australia”. As People of Colour, if we do not assimilate and embrace all of Australia, we are told to leave for not respecting the country that has provided us with so much.
Fundamentally, the phrase is a protest from these patriotic, conservative white Australians who feel their narrow view of what constitutes “Australia” is under attack. The nostalgia and control of the past soon evaporates when a mix of progressive ideas and notions come into play from People of Colour. “Love it or leave it” implies that we must love the land that we came to unconditionally and unreservedly, and should we want change, leaving is the only remedy because that criticism is not welcome here.
“Love it or leave it” is a phrase that is still being used by patriotic, conservative white Australians to hush the criticisms of People of Colour and to stop this beautiful country from progressing with new ideas. It implies that some Australians cannot be treated with respect or courtesy when we disapprove of our nation’s choices or don’t profess our love of Australia. We do not all bow down to the Southern Cross flag and many won’t “love” Australia until we change how disadvantaged Indigenous people are treated or until our legal system is reformed. But that doesn’t mean that we should be evicted for wanting to improve it for the better.
Originally published on ARMED, February 8, 2014.
Watch this video of a racist White elderly woman on public transport: