Carrying hope

I wrote this piece the night before the rally and posted it on my social media. Since it says some things that I think are important, I’m publishing a slightly expanded version of it here, adding my thoughts later that evening, and backdating it to the 14th. It’s very much a post about feelings rather than facts, but I want to journal this properly anyway.

I’m checked in at Tullamarine, waiting for my flight to Canberra, and thinking about tomorrow.

I am taking more than thirty names with me to the march tomorrow. Women, men, non-binary people, children. Friends who I have known for most of my life, and friends who I’ve only known since last year. Friends who I see every week and friends who I have never yet met in person. Family members. Colleagues. Church people. Even a few precious strangers.

It’s hard to describe the emotions around this. I feel like I am carrying the grief and rage of so many people, and I also feel like they are helping to carry me. It feels like an honour, and it feels like a responsibility. It feels inspiring that so many people want to be part of this, and it feels tragic that so many people feel that they need to be a part of it.

It feels like impending catharsis.

I don’t know how big the march itself will be, but if I am in any way representative, for every person marching, there are twenty or thirty or fifty more who would march if they could. If they didn’t have work, or caring duties, or physical difficulties that make marching tomorrow impossible.

People who are angry or grieving or frustrated or traumatised or just tired.

People who don’t want to see see our nieces or our daughters or our granddaughters marching for this again in twenty years time.

People who will not forget.

I wonder if the government realises that?


In Canberra, later this evening, I write your names on my sign. I write them with care, and I write them with intention, and I write them with love.

With each name, I think about the stories I know, and the stories I don’t know. Some of these stories, I have known for years. Others, only recently. For some of you, I know only that there is a story, and I hope you will find the right person to tell it to.

Some of you are angry, gloriously and shamelessly so, and I try to put that emotion onto the sign. Some of you are there in solidarity, and I feel that when I write your names. Some of you feel vulnerable, wanting to be there, but also afraid to be, and I write your names with care, surrounding them with the names of the supporters, the angry warriors, hoping that they will lend you their strength.

I don’t know where the boundary lies between symbolism and prayer and magical thinking, but I’m pretty sure I have crossed it.


Later still, I will lie in my very comfortable bed and I will not sleep. I still don’t know what I want to write on my sign. I don’t know what words will capture the feelings, both mine and yours. I am so very proud and glad to have you with me, and I am so afraid that I am not enough. Overthinking is my super power, and I do a lot of it tonight.

And in between, I can’t stop thinking about all those stories. A colleague mentioned a week or so ago that she had been talking to her women friends, and they all had a story. It seems like we all have stories, whether they are small or large. Stories of being hurt, of being treated with disrespect, of being treated like things rather than like people. (And most of my friends are white and cis. My friends of colour, my trans friends… have worse stories, and more of them.)

Why do all women (#YesAllWomen) still have these stories?

I eventually give up on sleeping and read a funny, feminist romance novel about suffragettes instead. (Huzzah! Suffragettes!)


During the night, and in the morning, more names come in. By the time I leave for the rally, I have 48 of you with me. People I love and respect and look up to in a multitude of ways. People whose achievements are internationally recognised, and people who are known only to a small circle, but who are full of kindness and courage and compassion and humour. People who I am proud to know, and whose friendship sustains me.

People who I am honoured to stand for today.

Christchurch

I don’t know what to say about the events in Christchurch.  I simply can’t fathom this level of violence, and of hatred, and of cruelty.

For myself, I am not a New Zealander, and I am not a Muslim, so this is not my tragedy – but like many Australians, I tend to think of New Zealanders as our (generally much nicer and more civilised) neighbours, and as a Christian, of course Muslims are my brothers and sisters – we are all people of faith, who are doing our best to live that faith in the world, and I think there is more that unites us than there is that separates us.

So I am thinking of and praying for my Muslim brothers and sisters today, and particularly for those who lost their lives or who lost loved ones in this attack.

And I am thinking of and praying for for all those who lost their sense of safety and of home today, because that’s the nasty aftertaste (and, really, the goal) of this sort of attack – it is intended to terrorise, and to intimidate, and make people feel unwelcome.  It isn’t just the immediate victims who suffer.

I’m so sorry for your loss, and that it was a countryman of mine who caused it.  And that people who look like me have said and done things that make this worse.

Allah yerhamon – may God grant them rest.

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There has been a lot of political commentary around this.  Some people have said some very important things, which deserve to be heard.  (Others have said some shockingly awful things which I am not going to link to, because most of these people are exactly the sort of people from whom one would expect terrible things, so we don’t actually need to go and read which particularly terrible thing they said this time.)

Below, I’ve linked to three statements which I think are worth reading / listening to, if you haven’t seen them.  But if you are completely saturated by this news – and honestly, I wouldn’t blame you, I’m going to switch off social media after this and go do something constructive – I invite you to scroll down a bit further, because I’ve made a bit of a list of things you might consider doing to help support / show solidarity with our Muslim friends and neighbours.  Feel free to add your own comments (and if you are Muslim and reading this, and there is something that you would really like people to be doing right now, please comment and I’ll add it as soon as I can).

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A statement by Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister of New Zealand

Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here.

They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us.

The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand.”

(You can read a transcript of her speech here, or click on the link above to watch her statement.)

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A statement from Waleed Aly, journalist and host of The Project

But of all the things I could say tonight, that I’m gutted and I’m scared and I feel overcome with utter hopelessness, the most dishonest thing, the most dishonest thing would be to say that I’m shocked. I’m simply not.

There’s nothing about what happened in Christchurch today that shocked me. I wasn’t shocked when six people were shot to death at a mosque in Quebec City two years ago. I wasn’t shocked when a man drove a van into Finsbury Park mosque in London about six months later and I wasn’t shocked when 11 Jews were shot dead in a Pittsburgh synagogue late last year or when nine Christians were killed at a church in Charleston. If we’re honest, we’ll know this has been coming.

(A transcript of his speech can be found here, but if you are able to watch the video, I’d recommend it – I found it very moving.)

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Journalist Osman Faruqi wrote an excellent series of tweets about the way journalism covers far right activism – the start of the thread is here. (You shouldn’t need a Twitter account to access it).  And this Tweet, shortly after the news broke, was heartbreaking to me.

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Things you can do

  • If you are in Victoria, Australia, tomorrow is Victorian Mosque Open Day. I’d encourage you to go along and visit your local Mosque – there is a list of participating venues at the link above – and say hello.
  • There are two fundraising appeals for victims and families of victims.  I gather both sites are crashing a lot because of the number of people trying to donate, so you may want to try both of them, or be a bit patient and try again in a day or two.
    • The New Zealand Council of Victim Support Groups has set up a  fundraiser on Give A Little.
    • The New Zealand Islamic Information Centre has set up a fundraiser on Launch Good.
    • If you are in New Zealand and are eligible to donate, now would be a good time to give blood, but I imagine you know that.
    • Also if you are in New Zealand, Restoring Family Links is a website set up to help people who might have been victims of the shootings and their families to find each other (and just to check in to let others know that they are alive).
    • If people in your life say terrible, racist things, call them on it (especially if you, personally, are white, and thus more likely to be taken seriously on the subject).  Even if they are joking.  They may not mean it, but not everyone listening to them will know that, and people who think that those around them share their views are significantly more likely to act on them.
    • If the politicians in your life say terrible racist things, call them on it… no, but seriously.  We all know the election is coming soon.  Write to your local MP, to your local Senators, to Bill Shorten and to Scott Morrison, and make it clear that you are not going to vote for a party that enables and supports racism or Islamophobia.  And if they haven’t denounced yesterday’s events, demand that they do.
    • Getup now has a petition to end scaremongering and bigotry in politics. Signing it couldn’t hurt.
  • Look after yourself and others.  There is a good article here on coping with traumatic news.  Read it, act on it, share it.

Another manifesto

Right now, I don’t like the shape of politics in this country. In fact, I feel quite literally sick to my stomach when I think about it. I feel as though we are all being deliberately encouraged to be afraid, to be anxious, to view people who are different from us as other, and as a threat. The current target of our collective fear and anger is Muslims, but to be honest, I think our politicians and our media have been training us to fear and mistrust each other for some time – asylum seekers, the unemployed, people on disability pensions, young people – all of these have been presented to us recently as the source of our problems, a threat to our financial well-being, or even to our physical security. It’s an excellent distraction from an unpopular budget, and also works nicely to justify inequitable social policies.

After all, we are told, In Times Like These, we must all make sacrifices.

The problem is that sometimes what we are sacrificing is our sense of compassion and our common humanity.

I don’t think this is a sacrifice worth making. In fact, I believe that there is absolutely nothing we can buy which is worth such a cost.

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