Overreaction to criticism of Maori version of awful anthem

Someone said something stupid about the Maori version of the New Zealand National Anthem on Facebook – stupid things on Facebook are common.

But this was from a city councillor from New Plymouth, Murray Chong, who responded to a post asking “”name a song you are ashamed of singing” with:

“The te reo version of the NZ national anthem”.

That got some media attention – New Plymouth councillor labels Māori version of national anthem a tune he is ‘ashamed to sing’.

Dr Andy Asquith, a Massey University senior lecturer and commentator on local government issues, said in his opinion it was not about politics but about responsibility and recognising that the country has two languages.

“I’m just astounded at the insensitivity of it to be honest,” he said.

“We’re now in an election year so this could well be part of an attempt to build up a profile.”

It could just as easily be a throw away line on Facebook that has nothing to do with the election.

More people started to make a big deal out of what looks to me like a fairly trivial comment in social media.

Stuff:  More than 1500 join call for anthem ‘shame’ councillor to quit

New Plymouth councillor Murray Chong is facing a barrage of criticism, has been censured by his mayor and there’s even a petition calling on him to resign for saying he was ashamed to sing the national anthem in te reo.

New Zealander of the Year for 2014, Dr Lance O’Sullivan, weighed in on the controversy with a scathing social media post on Tuesday that the incident “goes to show that USA is not the only country that is capable of electing idiots to public office”.

He has also been censured by his mayor Neil Holdom, who had already censured the councillor last month for proclaiming on radio he had no issue flying a Confederate flag during Taranaki’s Americarna car festival.

Chong’s track record has been slammed as “despicable” by political commentator Dr Andy Asquith and a petition calling for the councillor to resign had gathered 1550 signatures in 24 hours.

Another bloody petition calling on someone to resign.

Politicians are elected. They should only resign in extraordinary circumstances, not because a few people call for it in a petition. Elections are the normal (and democratic) way of dealing with politicians.

Editorial (Stuff): Councillor’s shame at singing anthem in Māori demands explanation

If New Plymouth District Councillor Murray Chong chooses not to sing the national anthem in Māori, that is his choice. 

And it is a legitimate one. It would be a terrifying day indeed if there were ever a law that made the singing of a national anthem compulsory

The issue with Chong’s latest controversial Facebook post, this time about our national anthem, is that he is ashamed to sing it in te reo.

Such sentiment demands explanation.

Does it?

He’s ashamed, he explains, because the original version was in English and if we are “forced” to sing it in two languages then we should also perform the haka in two languages.

I think that’s pathetic reasoning, but can’t we just make up our own minds what we think?

Chong’s attitude to te reo is concerning in a multi-cultural nation but it’s not out of step with thousands of others who view the language’s growing presence as something “forced” on them.

That attitude is not going to change over night. There will be some, many thousands, who will hold that position no matter what. And these people will see Chong as one person “brave” enough to speak the truth.

But we should hope that there are many more thousands who will at least be open to learning about why te reo is so integral to this country’s past, present and future.

Chong’s social media behaviour does nothing to advance such an openness and it is disappointing the councillor appears content to continually act in a way that divides rather than unites.

Because even though it’s a tired cliche, it’s as true now as ever that united we stand and divided we fall.

We should be compelled to be united in expressing love and admiration for both versions of the anthem?

After the barrage Chong apologised. RNZ: New Plymouth councillor Murray Chong apologises for te reo Māori anthem comments

In a written statement, Mr Chong said he stood by his election promise of “saying it like I see it” and wanted to encourage constructive discussion on matters important to ratepayers.

He said he wanted to make clear his views did not represent his fellow councillors or the council.

Mr Chong has previously described te reo Māori as a dying language and has been censured twice before for race-based comments.

New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom yesterday said he had given Mr Chong an official telling off, but would not say what the censure would mean in practice or how often a councillor could be censured before further action would be taken.

Only in the Internet age would this sort of nonsense make national news. And the ease of starting a petition is making a farce of them.

I have often said I don’t like the original (English) version  of our anthem. It’s often a non-uplifting dirge (sometimes it is sung ok).

I think that the God-laden lyrics are embarrassing for a national anthem, especially in a secular country the 21st century.

I don’t sing it because of the lyrics, and because I would be embarrassed for anyone to hear my monotonic mangling. I don’t sing the Maori version  for the same reasons.

But I actually prefer hearing the Maori version. The te reo sounds far less bombastic and dated – and i can pretend I don’t understand what it means.