This time last year my Christmas wish was for a little more compassion in our treatment of refugees. That clearly didn’t happen. This year I was just hoping for a break from all the anger, outrage and misery that’s marked 2014. Instead the final weeks of a brutal year have brought yet more tragedy and sorrow.
My Christmas wish this year was for nothing more complicated than a little peace and goodwill, a brief ceasefire in all the wars we seem to be engaged in, from the actual to the ideological.
Instead the week began with the Martin Place siege in Sydney, continued with the massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar and ended with the loss of eight young lives in Cairns. None of them related, all of them unbearable in their horror.
But in the middle of all that sorrow something nice happened. Someone spared a thought for what might happen to Muslim Australians travelling on public transport in the middle of an unfolding crisis which was being linked to the War on Terror.
One ordinary citizen offered to ride with anyone who felt intimidated and other ordinary citizens thought it was a good idea and offered to do the same.
The idea took off, with the #illridewithyou hashtag on Twitter trending around the world and for a brief moment, in a dark and anxious hour for our nation, we shone.
Naively, it turns out, I thought I’d found the peace and goodwill to help your Girl Reporter to the finish line of year’s end. A flicker of love and understanding to counter the evil of a madman in Sydney and the darkness which seems to be enveloping our tired old world.
I didn’t realise that I was instead succumbing to a typical pathetic left wing black armband brigade campaign, casting Aussies as racists who will endanger Muslims (thanks George Christensen MP).
Nor did I appreciate that this small act of decency, as I saw it, was not challenging Islamophobia, but perpetuating it (cheers Nazry Bahwari).
The integrity of the ordinary citizen who inspired #illridewithyou has been called into question and the motives of the ordinary citizens who were inspired have been attacked, by commentators as well as other ordinary citizens having their say on social media.
Check out #illridewithyou today and it won’t be long before you’re once again swimming in a timeline of bile. Which is a shame, in this season of goodwill.
I’m not sure why expressing a desire that everyone who travels on public transport should be able to do so without fear is a bad thing.
A quick dip into Australian history shows why this is a genuine concern as these recent examples demonstrate:
Backlash against Australian Muslims worsens – SBS, 26 September 2014
Alleged Muslim woman attacked on train raises questions of anti-Muslim views in Australia – International Business Times, 2 October 2014
Dozens of anti-Muslim attacks as Islamic leaders warn of community fear – Sydney Morning Herald, 9 October 2014
Are we all to blame for racism in Australia? – news.com.au, 25 October 2014
I don’t know why anyone would feel that a small act of kindness should remain undone if it may be either unnecessary or pointless.
But I am, you are, we are Australian so a Merry Christmas to you too. I hope Santa brings you something nice.
If 2014 was a hard year there’s no reason to suppose the next one will be any better. There is precious little to celebrate and much to mourn before we return to the many challenges we face.
A small act of kindness may do no more than remind us that we have a right to be decent just as we have a right to be bigots. One small candle, after all, can light the world.
#IndiaWithPakistan and #illridewithyou show social media solidarity amid tragedy – Brian Pellot at the Religion News Service
Sydney siege: #illridewithyou raises questions about Facebook privacy – Michael James at Brisbane Times reminds us that nothing’s private on social media.
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© Sally Baxter 2014
This will be my last post for 2014. I’ll be back next year, leaving you with my best wishes to all until then. – Sally