I am…are you?

The hot topic worldwide seems to be fear; fear stemming from racism, from terrorism, from extremism in multiple forms. Unfortunately Australia has borne the brunt as well. Despite no official terrorist attacks on home soil, though some would count lone gunman Man Monis, fear runs rampant within our culture. This fear stems from the unknown, from cultures many understand little about, misinterpret or believe racial and extremist stereotypes. These are fueled by those in positions of power, people such as Pauline Hanson who research little, speak without filter or thought and through fear. Not too many years ago this ignorance was placed upon the Asian inhabitants of Australia, now it is on the Muslim. I wonder who is next.

 

Recently Sonia Kruger, a television presenter, called for a ban on Muslim immigrants to our country. Like many who claim not to be racist, she felt the need to inform the viewers that she has Muslim friends, the famous “but”. Of course, perhaps she is not a racist at heart, but this is what fear brings us, acts, thoughts and speech that reflect. She explained that she felt this way because she is afraid, as a mother. Mother’s do many things to protect their young, but as many have pointed out, simply being a mother is not an excuse for such a statement. People have marched in our streets proclaiming they were proud Australians, that the burqa and Muslim’s should be banned. Ironic that many of them choose to cover their faces when they shout these statements. Scuffles have occurred, fights and brawls as racists and anti-racists meet in protest of one another. I preach acceptance and yet I feel I cannot stand with many of those who proclaim themselves to be anti-racist, because whilst they may be, many are not anti-violence. Sonia Kruger, Pauline Hanson, as much as I may disagree with their viewpoints here, are being assaulted online and in person with abuse. How is that different to what they are proclaiming? It installs fear, it furthers ignorance. Were we not talk at school to debate with facts? Instead the two sides clash, blood is spilled, people are arrested and fear runs rampant.

 

Violence, fear, hatred…it’s everywhere.

 

I’ve hated. I’ve feared. I’ve felt anxious. I’ve been suspicious of every person I met. I’ve also been a sufferer of PTSD and all of these were symptoms of that diagnosis. As someone who has battled with mental health issues, I can tell you that fear, anger, hatred…they are exhausting, they accomplish nothing. Just as all rapists and abusers do not represent all men, just as the KKK does not represent all white people and just as the Westboro Baptist Church does not represent all Christians…IS does not represent all Muslims. By calling for the banning of all, we are encouraging fear to fester. We are making Muslim people afraid of us and us afraid of them. We are building a wall between us, making it a “them” and “us” situation. We’re dividing a nation and encouraging extremists by fuelling the fires of their own fear and hatred.

 

When I hear someone sprouting ignorant views, racism, religious intolerance…I ask them where their family came from. I have blonde hair, blue eyes and pale white skin and I’m the daughter of an immigrant. My mother was an immigrant and she defended this country in the military and served it as a paramedic. Tell her that she is not Australian. My great grandfather was an immigrant and he was captured by the Japanese during WWII for Australia. Tell him that he is not Australian. My great, great uncle was an immigrant and he founded a now prosperous town in Western Australia. I am the daughter of immigrants, but I’m also the daughter of a family that came to this country on one of the first ships. Tell me that I am not Australian, that my family are not Australian. Tell my nephew, born of an Australian and an Irishman, that he is to live in fear and turmoil, that he is to grow in a world where difference is a death sentence, that he is not entitled to call himself Australian. Tell my family who moved here for a better life that they have not left war and turmoil and fear behind.

 

Fear breeds hatred, it breeds anger and turmoil, it breeds registrations, ghettos, terrorists, extremists, neighbour against neighbour and it breeds war. War is where young men and women go to die. They fight for something they may not entirely believe in. They fall on their swords, on bullets, they shed blood and they run towards certain death because intolerance and fear conquered. This is not my Australia. My Australia is a mixture of cultures, of religions, of colours and food, of white, black, yellow and all those in between sitting down to a festival of involvement. It is culture; it is a promise of a better life, of freedom, of peace.

 

This comes from fear. I will be honest. I am fearful. I’m fearful of my own people; of being ashamed to call myself Australian. I’m afraid that my parent’s own military service induced PTSD may have been something they suffered for no reason at all, that they wasted their times and lives defending a country that has turned in on itself and become a haven for hatred. I will not jump on the hate train though. I will not hate my fellow man and I will do my best not to be fearful of him. I will not allow fear to dictate my thoughts and my reactions. Perhaps I sound like a bit of a hippy, all peace, love and freedom, but then so be it. I’d ask my friends, my followers, anyone who may read this, to consider the same. It is through love, understanding and knowledge that peace may come to fruition, that fear will be abated.

 

To my fellow Australians, I ask that we consider our heritage, our record of immigration, our family histories, our poetry and literature and even our anthem. I hope one day that all remember that “we are one, but we are many, and from all the lands on earth we come. We share a dream and sing with one voice: I am, you are, we are Australian.”

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