Prejudice Is Ugly, Kids.

I was saddened to read what happened to Sharon Cathcart the other day in response to a blog post about racism. Nobody should have to put up with another person’s bad behaviour simply because they are standing up for what is right. 

Sadly, there can be no doubt that racism and white supremacy are still living and active in our world. 

We see their outworking on the news, on the streets, on social media, and in the actions of hateful people. It can be public or private. It can be overt or concealed. 

It seems the only thing it cannot be is eradicated. 

I do try, in my own sphere of influence, to teach and challenge others to embrace equality, acceptance, and empathy for what others have endured, and what is still experienced by many. 

I try to make people aware of what white privilege is, and why it’s wrong to perpetuate it. Yes, I’m fully aware that I’ve been a beneficiary of it all my life. I’ve had advantages others haven’t, simply because I’m white. That doesn’t mean I am willing to sit back and allow it to perpetuate.  

This is why I teach my students about the effects of European settlement of Australia on the indigenous people, then and now. It’s why I teach my students about segregation, oppression, and the Civil Rights Movement, and have them listen and respond to speeches by Martin Luther King Jr and JFK. It’s why I thave them study texts such as ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ and ‘No Sugar’. It’s why I teach about inequality, wellbeing, and social justice. And I make sure they understand that for everything that has happened in the USA, Australia’s track record is no better. 

It’s why I challenge people who tell racial jokes, or call people names, or avoid people who don’t fit their ideal. 

It’s why I object to the way in which my country continues to detain people who are legitimately seeking asylum on small third-world islands nearby. It’s why I object to policies and practices that continue to discriminate against indigenous Australians. 

And it’s why I write blog posts like this. 

I do not ever claim to be perfect, but I detest prejudice, discrimination, and everything that goes with them. It’s not just about race: nobody should be excluded, abused or marginalised for being different in whatever way. 

I, too, have had hateful messages left on a blog post or three. I know they are intended to upset me, and to deter me from posting something similar again.

Sadly for those responsible, it has the opposite effect. I always figure that if someone is vehement enough to threaten or abuse me over something I have written, I have probably touched a nerve that deserved touching. As my grandfather used to say, “If you throw a stone at a pack of dogs, the one it hits will yelp the loudest.”

He was a wise man, my grandfather. That statement was never made about actual rocks, nor about actual dogs. It was invariably made about bullies, and various other sorts of horrible people, and the way they would always lash out or blame someone else in response to any accusation or opposition directed at them.

That’s the same reason people leave nasty messages on blogs and social media. They resent the fact that someone is calling them out on their hate.

It’s okay for them to say what they want, though. They have rights, you know.

Sharon E. Cathcart

I was coming back here to write about something else, and found that I had a threatening e-mail (via my contact page) and comment (permanently deleted) from a white supremacist in reference to the link I shared about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Suffice it to say that this individual now has the rare distinction of having been blocked.

This is what white supremacy looks like: threatening anyone who dares to show support for people of color, or to speak out about what happens to them.

And that is actually what I came here to write about. When my dad died, I mentioned that he had given away the bride when one of his African-American students, Joe, married a white woman. Her own family refused to attend.

Anyway, we tried very hard to find Joe in time for Daddy’s funeral. The number my mother had was disconnected, and the…

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Celebrating the record-breaking reign of QEII, the Australian way.

I’ve had a wonderful idea.

It’s 40 years since the dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s government in 1975 by the Governor-General, Sir James Kerr.
Tomorrow – September 9th – will see Queen Elizabeth II become the longest reigning monarch in British history.

What if Australia were to celebrate both anniversaries by having the Governor-General sack the PM again?

Australia would have a new lease on its political life, possibly even in time to prevent our becoming unable to ever look the rest of the world in the eye again.
The economy would receive an enormous boost because people would be throwing parties and holding street parades through every town. Freedom of the press to call it as they see it would return, and Australians could celebrate being Australian without wondering if they actually were on Team Australia or not.
The ABC could continue being fully funded and independent, we could go back to funding schools, roads and hospitals, and asylum seekers would be welcomed without being “filtered” according to artificially imposed rules and guidelines that make those who dream them up almost as bigoted as the people the asylum seekers are running away from in the first place.
Australia could once again be the “lucky country” with boundless plains to share, where the little guy can achieve something great once in a while without being accused of having a “sense of entitlement”.

Stop for a moment and think about it.
It really would be the gift that keeps on giving.

Australia’s response to those in need.

Australia's response to those in need.

Today’s offering comes from ‘First Dog on the Moon’ because I am so ashamed of our government on this issue – and many others – I have few things to say about it that can be published.

One day, Australia will have to come to terms with her guilt.

Letting go.

Today a dear friend of mine passed away.
I wrote about her on Friday. She was young and vibrant and had the most beautiful heart for other people that I’ve ever experienced.
She leaves behind her two young daughters, a husband, a mother and a father (who also has Alzheimers), an extended family and a wide network of friends. All who met Rebecca were touched by her spirit and her joy.

We knew she was dying. We knew that her battle with the cancers that attacked her colon, liver and abdomen was drawing to a close.  As soon as the news that Bec had passed away was delivered, the Facebook pages of her mother and sister were flooded with messages of love, support, sympathy, and grief.

It’s so hard for us to let go of someone we love. Nobody wants a member of their family or a friend to die.  It’s so hard to grieve and to let go.  It hurts. We cry. We hold each other, we promise ourselves that we will stop taking our loved ones for granted.  We take comfort in the belief that our loved one is in a better place, where there is no more sorrow or pain.

How blessed we are that the death of a friend or relative can still come as a shock.  How blessed we are that we often know it’s coming, and have a chance to say goodbye. How blessed we are if we live in a nation where the death of a child or a teen due to unforeseen circumstances is still unusual.

People from war-torn nations live with this on a daily basis.  They don’t know when their time will come. It may come in the form of a bombing, a military raid, arrest and subsequent imprisonment or disappearance, or genocide.

It’s no wonder some of them make the decision to flee the danger. Sometimes, an entire family or village will pool their very limited resources to spirit one young member of their family away in the hopes of them finding safety and building a life in a different place – a place where there is peace, and hope, and a future.

These are the people who get on the boats that belong to the people smugglers who bring them to Australia. They take the risks that they do because whatever danger lies ahead, it’s nowhere near as bad as the danger they leave behind.
All they want is a chance at a new life… to live somewhere where life is valued, where people are protected, and where the army and police are not the enemy.

I cannot imagine how a mother feels when her child flees a war zone and starts on a journey into the unknown.  She, too, will most likely comfort herself with thoughts of them going to a place where there is no sorrow, no war, no oppression, and where one really can enjoy peace.  Friends, too, would be sorry to see them go but hopeful that their new life will be much better than the one they leave behind.

Who do our political leaders think they are to say, “No, you can’t come in! We want to keep our country to ourselves!”? What on earth must the rest of the world think of the Australian Government’s latest decision – to rule out the possibility of any asylum seeker who tries to get to Australia ever being allowed to live here?

I could probably have a pretty good guess at what the asylum seekers think.

That’s what I think too.

Please don’t think that I’m saying that my friend Rebecca’s life means less than one of these asylum seekers. Nothing could be further from the truth.
However, each of those asylum seekers is someone’s brother or father, mother or daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, uncle… and their lives are just as valuable as those of the people who already live in this very wealthy, productive and vast land.  Knowing Rebecca as I do, I can confidently say that she would absolutely agree.

There has to be a better way – a more humane and compassionate way – to solve the problem of people smugglers endangering their lives.

I don’t know what that way forward it. But I know this – it must not involve denying the opportunities our nation offers for anyone who wants to live here and become an Australian.

“For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share…”

This is the line in the Australian national anthem that I’ve always loved.

Australia is a highly multicultural nation. From our earliest days of white settlement and gold rush, Australia has been a melting pot of different nationalities.
The English, Irish, Scottish were the first to make their new home here. As history tells us, they were the original boat people, and the people who were already here were treated most unjustly by them. Since then,  French, German, Maltese, Italian, Greek, Dutch, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Kiwi and countless others have made Australia their home. More recently, there have been significant numbers from South Africa, Sudan, Timor, Afghanistan, and Iran.
All have come to Australia to make a new start. It’s a land of hope, opportunity, temperate weather, and good natured people.  It’s a fantastic place to live.

However, it seems that we’re just not that welcoming anymore… officially, at least. Recently, the Australian government excised the whole of the continent – that’s right, the entire nation – from the migration zone, in an effort to deter people from going into enormous debt to get on a leaky boat and sail here from Indonesia as asylum seekers.
What that means is that nobody who sails here, flies here, or swims here fuelled by sheer determination can actually ask for asylum from whatever messed up, conflict-ravaged nation that they’ve come from.

That’s right. The Australian Government hung out the virtual “NO VACANCY” sign. If they could find a way to fill it with neon and make it flash, they would.

Yesterday, the Australian Government sank even lower.

Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, announced yesterday afternoon that anyone who actually does make it here, having risked their lives on a leaky boat from Indonesia or anywhere else, will never be allowed to settle in Australia. Instead, they will be sent to Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea is one of Australia’s nearest neighbours. While many of its people are peace-loving and friendly, it’s sad to acknowledge that it is a nation that is conflicted and suffering significant poverty.
It’s hard to imagine how sending thousands of refugees there to be settled is going to help anyone, especially when they are already fleeing from other war-torn nations. It’s certainly hard to see how that’s going to improve anything in PNG.

Australia signed the UN Refugee Convention. Australia is currently a member of the UN Security Council.
And yet, Australia is avoiding her responsibilities to the rest of the world because those in leadership can’t think of any other way to put the people smugglers out of business.

My suggestion? Open an agency in Indonesia, in refugee camps, wherever there are people who want to come to Australia. Let them register and apply, have their identity and bona fides confirmed, and bring them over.  That will put the people smugglers out of business, without question.
Let every asylum seeker be judged on their individual circumstances. If they genuinely need a new home, let them come to Australia.  Let them settle in the community, learn the language, get jobs, become Australian citizens, and help Australia to prosper and flourish like the majority of migrants who have come here before have done.  They may be asylum seekers, but their children will be Australian, just like all the children of all the migrants and refugees that have come before them.

This latest policy is morally bankrupt.

It makes me angry at the Australian government and ashamed that they are so lacking in compassion and understanding, and it makes me so incredibly sad for the people who just want to come here and live in peace. Haven’t they been through enough already?

It’s ironic that the Prime Minister who apologised to the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the way the white settlers treated them for two hundred years is also the same one who has introduced this dreadful policy. I wonder if there will ever be an official apology for that, or if the heartfelt apologies of the Australians who disagree with it will have to suffice.

Until we get some national leaders who can do something more positive and compassionate, I guess we’ll just have to sing the anthem differently:

“For those who’ve come across the seas,
Our leaders just don’t care.
It’s time to hang our heads in shame;
Advance Australia… where?”