I will ride with you
The Australian reaction to terror and how America can learn from it
December 17, 2014
From the moment the Twin Towers fell, there has been an imaginary line separating America from the Middle East. It seems as if anytime there is strife in America, we turn against each other. When Trevon Martin died, whites and blacks fell into their respective sides of a similar imaginary line. When Michael Brown was shot and killed, the words “us” and “them” were used to both justify and conceal injustices. Another situation that usually causes this sort of response occurred on Monday, but not in America.
Around 9:00 a.m. (U.S Central Time), Australian authorities raided the Lindt café in Sydney where Haron Monis held over a dozen hostages. Monis was an Iranian refugee with a large criminal record.
He was also Muslim.
Anyone who has followed world news knows that Islamophobia is rising in Australia because of multiple standalone attacks throughout the past year, this one being another that could add to the increasing fear and prejudice.
The purpose of terrorism is inherent in the name. It is supposed to cause fear, mass chaos, and most of all hatred. But the Australian reaction to the attack has been the exact opposite. The hash tag “illridewithyou” is trending on twitter as Australians show their fellow citizens that they will have someone to support them even when others are so caught up in fear and hatred that they would wish to harm them.
This article is not about terrorism or reporting the exact details of the Sydney Hostage Crisis. This is about a country that recognizes the attack for what it truly is – a single act of violence committed by a single man.
The idea behind the hash tag is simple, Muslims ask others to ride with them on trains and buses so that they don’t have to face bigots and hate alone. In addition to the citizen reaction, public officials are promoting a calm reaction and have asked their citizens to treat each other with respect. Australia is refusing to let terrorism control them.
This is very different from American action in the last fifteen years.
In America when attacks such as this happen, there is often public backlash. This is seen in the repeating of “never forget, never forgive” every year on September eleventh and the riots happening in Ferguson after the Michael Brown ruling. This “never forget, never forgive” attitude typically extends to never forgiving American Muslims for crimes they did not commit.
This process of thought spills over in ways that we don’t even recognize. It’s the reason why some people feel the need to be on guard around Muslims, black people, or any other person that can be considered the “other”. In the end, we have a society that is always afraid or angry at each other for reasons that are illogical.
Just to be clear, I am not saying that the conflict in America is the same as conflict in Australia – simply that when push comes to shove Americans fall apart rather than coming together. As I go through the day, I hear people label Muslims as terrorist and make racist comments concerning Michael Brown. Some are jokes, some are not, but they all add to the tension. However, the place where most hate is spread is on social media. Every time CNN (or any other source) post about ISIS or Ferguson there are comment sections containing hundreds of posts of racial slurs.
But what can we learn from Australia?
Firstly, stop being a part of the problem. I am sure that Australians are angry, hurt, and scared, but instead of directing that hurt at each other they are relying on each other to overcome the obstacle. When buildings fall or innocent die, Americans need each other more than ever. This means more than ever we need to learn to put aside our prejudices and learn to coexist.
Secondly, not being a part of the problem is not enough to fix it. Americans have to be proactive. We have to be a part of the solution if we going to be able to come together during times of grief and conflict. This is happening in New York City as blacks stand next to whites in protest of the Michael Brown ruling, but there is no unity or support in Ferguson. There was no unity or support after the nine eleven attacks, just directionless pain, grief, and anger. Americans need to go out of their way to fix the problems of our society. We need to learn to ride with each other when no one else will.