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Monday, January 5, 2015

I'll ride with you

This is an article from the Brisbane Times:

Rachael Jacobs' simple offer to walk with a Muslim woman as they got off a Brisbane train on Monday sparked a social media campaign under the hashtag #illridewithyou.
Overwhelmed by interest in her gesture, Ms Jacobs has agreed to share her story with Fairfax Media rather than be interviewed, in the hope the focus can then remain on the victims of the Sydney siege and their families.

As news of the siege unfolded, I scrolled through updates on my phone, searching for the latest information. My brother works in the city of Sydney. My husband's office is a government building near Martin Place. I knew all were safe and sound, but I wanted to know more.
At this point I saw a woman on the train start to fiddle with her headscarf.
Like most people she had been looking at her phone, then slowly started to unpin her scarf.
Tears sprang to my eyes and I was struck by feelings of anger, sadness and bitterness. It was in this mindset that I punched the first status update into my phone, hoping my friends would take a moment to think about the victims of the siege who were not in the cafe.
I spent the rest of the journey staring – rudely – at the back of her uncovered head. I wanted to talk to her, but had no idea what to say. Anything that came to mind seemed tokenistic and patronising. She might not even be Muslim or she could have just been warm! Besides, I was in the "quiet carriage" where even conversation is banned.
By sheer fluke, we got off at the same station, and some part of me decided saying something would be a good thing. Rather than quiz her about her choice of clothing, I thought if I simply offered to walk her to her destination, it might help.
It's hard to describe the moment when humans, and complete strangers, have a conversation with no words. I wanted to tell her I was sorry for so many things – for overstepping the mark, for making assumptions about a complete stranger and for belonging to a culture where racism was part of her everyday experience.
But none of those words came out, and our near silent encounter was over in a moment.
My second status was written as a heartbreaking postscript to my first. While the woman appeared to appreciate my gesture, we had both left defeated and deflated. What good is one small action against an avalanche of ignorance?
Hours later, social media showed me good people can create their own avalanche of kindness.
My posts were written on my private Facebook page to a private audience, never intended for public eyes. A friend of mine made his own decision to share it publicly, and I'm deeply humbled by his action. Perhaps the story was then shared widely because it represented what so many people felt in their heart. But while I'm warmed by the sheer volume of media interest, I am not the story here, and my actions were not extraordinary or heroic.
We are all in shock at the tragedy that has unfolded, and out of respect for the victims' families, I'm reluctant to take any media focus.
I've made the decision to decline interviews for a few reasons. I have spent some time in the public eye due to my recent experiences as a candidate in federal and local elections. I would be mortified if anyone thought I was using this tragedy for political gain.
It will be tempting to search for answers in politics or beliefs, sheltering in the irrational fear that more madness is to come.
But #illridewithyou reminds us that we can overcome fear and ignorance with a pledge to treat each other with respect. It's a reminder that decent Australians don't hold an entire group of people responsible for the actions of one man.
Some claim the movement is patronising, forcing misplaced support upon those who need space, rather than spotlight. They may have a point. But there's no doubting its good intentions. And perhaps we need it more for ourselves as a reminder that there are reasoned and tolerant people that walk among us, publicly disempowering the trolls.
I am, however, the daughter of Indian migrants, and having lived all of my 37 years in Australia, I feel I've seen the best and the worst this country has to offer. I'd rather deliver a message to racists, bigots and anyone who dares to derive a message of hate from this tragedy – it is you who are unwelcome here. Your values have no place in civilised society, and if you spread intolerance, there's an avalanche of kindness ready to take you down.

[Read more here]
It seemed to me that the #Illridewithyou Twitter campaign was a fine thing: compassionate, kind, wise, sensible.  Something worth supporting.

Not to the Right.  Miranda Devine produced this toxic spray.  What I, in my innocence took a simple human kindness, she saw as a plot by "leftists" to downplay "Islamic terrorism".

The meaningless, narcissistic, one-sided nature of this “near silent encounter” perfectly symbolises the leftist ­approach to Islamist terrorism.
Denial, deflection, projection. They see themselves as morally superior to the rest of Australia, which they imagine as a sea of ignorant rednecks. In their eyes the threat is not terrorism but Islamophobia.
They prefer to downplay the terrorist threat and excuse the perpetrators. In their view the self-styled Iranian-born sheik and alleged rapist Man Haron Monis was a humanitarian, motivated by concern for children dying in the Middle East. (Or, a “peace activist”, as his lawyers describe him when he was charged with sending vile letters to the families of dead Aussie soldiers).
Where does Rachael Jacobs say all this?  Nowhere.  Why is it wrong to be compassionate to Muslims?  Why does that imply that you support terrorism?

"Liberal" MP, George Christensen said this in a Twitter post:

#weridetogether & #illridewithyou - typical lefty campaigns that creates false victims. Focus on real #sydneysiege victims: Tori & Katrina.

There is much to admire in the philosophy of conservatism.  Yet at heart the Right is, alas, essentially nasty and mean-spirited.  Compassion is suspect.  Pity for the underdog misplaced.  Generosity is fake.  And everything anyone from the Left does is part of some tin-foil conspiracy.

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