The following article appear in The Age, 24 January, 2010. It is by Mark Seymour, a musician and song writer who is very well known in Australia. It raises an issue that is not specific to Australia, however. Aussie. I love it, but leave me out of the flag-waving I'M DRIVING down EastLink. The transponder's beeping the cost every few minutes, but it's OK. I'm cashed up and it's a great bit of road. The sky is a perfect blue. There's a light wind and the website told me there's a straight swell hitting the peninsula coast. Great day, great surf. It doesn't get much better. Tonight, there'll be a barbecue on the deck overlooking the creek and a few cold ones. A silver Rodeo passes me on the right, then moves across in front. The tray is full of plumbing supplies, a ladder, plastic pipes. There's a sticker on the back window, ''Australia. Love it or leave it'', and an Aussie flag up in the corner. It gets to me straight away. But why? Well, the sticker is demanding I take an emotional position about my country and I'm not feeling like doing that at the moment, so I feel slightly annoyed. Bumper stickers are a conspicuous form of political self-identification. Everybody reads them. Stickers that say ''I shoot and I vote'' or ''Nurses: You can't live without them'' are intended to convey a clear message about the opinions held by the driver. Fair enough. That's their business. And it may or may not be mine. Stickers like that aren't asking me to take a position. But the ''Aussie. Love it or leave it'' is an entirely different animal. It demands I take a position for the simple reason that I, too, am an Australian. In other words, the sticker is saying: ''Do you love your country? If you don't, then what are you doing here?'' And it's not just me it's asking. It's everybody who holds Australian citizenship. For this reason I am forced to ask myself where I stand. Do I love my country? I'm fourth-generation, Irish background, brought up in the burbs. I love footy, surfing, barbecued steak, hard work and Victoria Bitter. I'm a stat; surely the sticker isn't aimed at me. After all, I know where I stand. I belong here. So then, who is it aimed at? Anyone who hates Australia? So why would you be here if you hate it? Maybe if you are a recent immigrant who can't find work, or you are totally skint and can't afford to leave, or an Indian taxi-driver. The problem with this sticker is in its use of the word ''love''. It's unconditional. It doesn't allow for the middle ground. I'm really thinking now. Love Australia warts and all, the sticker is telling me, or piss off. Well, my problem is that I can't honestly say that I do love it warts and all. In fact, Australia's got warts that I utterly despise, like the fact a whole lot of Indian students have been bashed in Melbourne over the past few weeks. That's not good. I can't say I'm proud of that. Or that despite the fact we enjoy one of the highest standards of living, our Aboriginal people are among the most disadvantaged on the planet; not good either. Or that our public health system is a shambles, or that the Murray-Darling Basin is dying. Hell, maybe I should leave, because I can't honestly say that I ''love'' Australia unconditionally. After all, the sticker's demanding I do that. Isn't it? Or can you love your country with strings attached? If only I could sit down with the plumber over a cold one and discuss it. You see, what the sticker does - as do the many forms of conspicuous nationalistic merchandise that are so popular now - is shut down negative thought about Australia, right at that moment when the wearer is passing you by, which increasingly can be anywhere at any time, as opposed to the appropriate occasions, like Australia Day. Meanwhile, it doesn't take a plumber or a rock musician to find fault with this country. You don't have to dig very deep, my friend. Statements like ''Aussie. Love it or leave it'' don't leave Australians like me with any wriggle room. I think that Australia's pretty good, but it's not that good. ... You can go on about how great Australia is to other Australians for just so long. And then it gets boring. We all know what a great place it is. It's the rest of the world we need to convince. Especially India, right now. Really, the world's a big place and Australia is only one nation. I'll be performing for the City of Penrith on Australia Day. Doubtless I'll look into a sea of faces, many of whom will be recent immigrants, and I'll say to them, as a proud Australian, how pleased I am they could come. --- Is unqualified, unthinking nationalism a good thing, or should you love your country "with strings attached"? For people who live in countries other than Australia, is it the same there as it is here?