… Perhaps the most heartening part of the Australian response was the enormous wave of concern that arose expressing fear that the siege would result in aggressive behavior toward Muslims.The hashtag #illridewithyou arose after the shootings when one woman told another who had taken off a head scarf to put it back on, and that she would walk with her to ensure she would not be harassed. As people raced to post their own offers of riding with anyone who traveled in fear, thousands placed bouquets of flowers in Sydney’s business district, a long, solemn carpet of respect and regret.
This #Illridewithyou Social Media Justice Warrior phenomenon was a two stage rocket. We’ve already discussed the second stage booster Tessa Kum, who garnered worldwide You Go Girls props for coining the immortal hashtag, and her underlying motivation (sheer anti-white racist rage).But what about the first stage booster rocket, Rachael Jacobs, who bravely placed her body between the Muslim woman and the incipient mob of Fosters-swilling bogans ready to gang rape all hijab-wearing women on top of shattered glass? (I may have a few details confused.) Numerous iSteve commenters have expressed skepticism about, say, Ms. Jacob’s claim to have shared a minute long hug in a public transit station with the poor Muslim woman.Well, commenter anonymous-antimarxist has tracked down Ms. Jacobs’ second thoughts:
No, you didn’t. “Editorialize” means to express an opinion. Like Stephen Glass, you “fabricated.”
She wasn’t sitting next to me. She was a bit away, towards the other end of the carriage. 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.Because we all know that it is the victims not in the cafe that really matter.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.Where is the HUG??? The intimate MINUTE LONG HUG that all the fuss was about?It’s hard to describe the moment when humans, and complete strangers, have a conversation with no words.You know some people might call it creepy if not stalking……But none of those words came out, and our near silent encounter was over in a moment.Like Gomer Pyle use to say. SURPRISE!!! SURPRISE!!!! SURPRISE!!!!!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.Because the truth after all is entirely secondary to a small action against an avalanche of ignorance. As long as it results in a kick in the balls for all those football watching beer loving Aussie stale pale males then it’s OK.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.Yeah, cause Facebook is all about privacy.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.But isn’t this an interview????Wait folks. It only gets better…I’m also a teacher and lecturer and have a responsibility to represent my profession and institution. At a time of heightened emotions, a misplaced word or phrase could cause offence, requiring numerous explanations and reassurances. …But most importantly, my role in this movement was minuscule and unworthy of the attention received. The #illridewithyou hashtag, started by Twitter user @sirtessa and embraced by thousands, is the real story of inspiration.
Sir Tessa is of course Tessa Kum. It would be a tribute to the spirit of the age if Queen Elizabeth put her name on the New Year’s Honors to be knighted as Sir Tessa rather than Dame Tessa.
The movement has inspired thousands to publicly and loudly stand up for a decent and humane world. It’s a pre-emptive strike against racism and bigotry.
“Pre-emptive strike” admits that nothing happened.
We know what fear can do to a society, and rather than fall victim, thousands have pledged to be part of the force that fights for tolerance and compassion.As we grapple with the tragic end to the siege, there’s no better time to ride with each other, walk with each other, listen to each other or just silently be there for someone else.Forget Tim Wise. LOOK OUT OPRAH!!!Our grief as a nation will be overwhelming and we will be confounded as we try to make sense of this event. 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.Off to the re-education camps for the “indecent” Australians.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.
Who could doubt the good intentions of, say, Tessa Kum? Or of Rachael Jacobs, after all?
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.Yep, just like Pol Pot use to say, good intentions are all that matter. Death to the trolls!!!!One of the most common questions I’ve been asked is “Do you have a message for the Muslim community?”In truth, I don’t. …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.… Well lets hope at least nobody is letting this narcissistic loon anywhere near the children or the future educators there of.Rachael Jacobs is a lecturer in Education at the Australia Catholic University in Brisbane. She was the Greens candidate for the seat of Brisbane in 2013.
Australia was part of the George W. Bush’s ill-fated Coalition of the Willing. Perhaps the #IllRideWithYou frenzy has revealed that much of Australia is part of the Coalition of the Illing.