Differences don't have to mean division

March 22, 2019

Image Source: Instagram via @guardian

Like many people, the events of the Christchurch Mosque massacre have left our minds and our hearts spinning. In no way were we personally connected to the families who have been affected directly.  But it has left us searching for answers to a number of questions.

Anger, disappointment and sadness have all run through our veins over the past few days.  Possibly all at the same time. And we’ve felt ashamed that an Aussie could perpetrate such a crime to another group of people.

The aftermath of the massacre has also left us staggered. 

Firstly and surprisingly, in one sense positively.  For the manner in which people have banded together to fight for inclusion, solidarity & kindness. 

At the risk of being an idealist, Jacinda Ardern’s phrase in which she stated ‘that the Muslim community is our community’ was great leadership.  Embracing and caring.  Yet strong. An affront to far right people and their beliefs.  And a stake in the ground for inclusivity being the best way forward.

Her sentiment has been echoed in numerous other ways in the community. Examples on Instagram for example showing the care and suffering both sides of the Tasman are feeling. 

It’s possible to think this might actually bring us closer together.

Image Source: Instagram via @miafreedman

Secondly, and unbelievably, by the response of some other world leaders.  We’re not sure if Trump’s twitter response is true, we’re hoping this (see below) is fake news. Enough said.

Image Source: Instagram via @shaunking

Closer to home, Fraser Anning has highlighted to the nation what a severe lack of leadership looks like.  Based on on the outpouring of care and empathy to the New Zealand, and more specifically, Muslim communities, hopefully it is safe to say that Anning’s views do not represent those of the Australian community. 

A petition to have him stripped of his role was about to tip over a million Australians at last count. 

The whole situation implores us to think about the responsibility of people who govern, and hold extreme perspectives, need to take. 

As Waleed Aly said, by no means do they have their ‘hand on the trigger’ but immigration and the changing shape of our demography has been a political football for a long time now.  Centralist parties have used it as a pawn to win or maintain office.  The Liberals appear to have been overrun (at least in terms of power) by those with quite extreme views.  Whole parties have been created from this issue. 

As leaders, they need to think beyond the next media cycle and election.  They need to govern and be responsible for the climate they create. For the intangible sense of permission they construct by speaking about the differences between people in their leadership positions.

Which raises a question about free speech.  It remains crucial to our way of life & democracy.  But we have forgotten that it should not be held sacred at the expense of harming others.  Free speech was never intended as hate speech, but as respectful argument and opinion.  People need to (irrespective of position in society) be more cognisant of one another.   

On the ABC Stan Grant talked to the idea that we identify with so many things that seem to pull us apart. When in actual fact, there are so many dimensions to us all that bring us together.  When it all comes down to it, Stan is right we all have more in common than we think. 

We don’t all need to be the same to unite.  We don’t have to think the same, speak the same, live the same way.   What we need is to remember, and recognise the human truths that bind us, not the smaller differences that divide.  We all have families, we all want peace, we all want to live our lives how we choose to.  We need a public discourse that realises that differences are just that, they make life different, interesting, but they don’t need to become divisions.  In fact, there is a point to saying ‘all differences aside’.  That we unite for the bigger things, the things we all share. 

At a time when the media discourse is steering us towards division, there is a need for other voices to bring us back together. 

Paul, Sarah & Amanda