racism

Raising my pen as a sword!

Today one of my own is being besieged! I am a writer. I am a woman. I am an Australian. This makes me me and it also makes me part of a small but powerful group. Women in this country who pick up their pens to change the world are a small force and when they have a bee in their pretty little bonnets well…..stand back and take cover….because they become a swarm!

Yesterday (in case you missed the public holiday, dawn services and two-up games) was ANZAC DAY. This is a national day of remembrance for our fallen soldiers. A day to sadly reflect upon WAR and the sacrifices and suffering that come from it. During these uncertain, worrying, tense times, days like ANZAC DAY summon up, not just remembrance, but important reflections of what we can learn from past conflict so that those who died did not do so in vain. The men and women of all colours and creeds who fought in wars past, did so to strive for PEACE, love and tolerance – you know…..the greater good. FREEDOM.

Yesterday, a young woman I have great respect for, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, made a comment on her Public Facebook Page. It read ‘LEST WE FORGET (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine).’ And the National Offence Brigade went freaking ballistic! The hate cannons and buckshot of outrage blew, they sharpened their bayonets and ran screaming for Yassmin’s blood. She quickly retracted the comment and left it as LEST WE FORGET and apologised to anyone she might have offended.  Never mind that other social commentators were busy writing articles in the mainstream media questioning the continued relevance of days such as ANZAC DAY. It was pointed out that the Indigenous Australians got one sorry day while we’re raking up a hundred to say thank-you for past military services. There are also many men and women who fought for our country who don’t march on ANZAC DAY. We are allowed to have this dialogue in this country, thank goodness because you know FREE SPEECH. I understand and respect those who honour the day and I understand and respect those who don’t for reasons of their own.

Now – I’ve only been called UN-AUSTRALIAN a couple of times in my life and each time it has weirdly enough been when I have been calling out racism. I once called Australia Day, Invasion Day (while not very original….it’s still kinda apt, eh?), and I got some poisonous spears and burning torches flung my way. So if every-time I stand up against racism I get given the red unaustalian card, does that mean, ipso facto, that to be a true-blue Aussie, I must be a teeny bit or a whole lot RACIST? Well, fuck that. I don’t roll that way.

I met Yassmin at a writers festival recently and fell in love with her energy, her passion and her infectious laughter. She is a woman who speaks out with heart and refreshing sincerity. The outpouring of HATE….(if I could think of a stronger word I would use it….maybe VILE-BILE would work)….toward Yassmin in the last twenty-four hours, has thrown and winded me. It’s really really sick! And it has nothing to do with deep national offence and the defense of ANZAC DAY or national pride; it has everything to do with RACISM and hate. It seems to me that those who sit at home, swilling beers and eating snags on ANZAC DAY, (most of whom wouldn’t lift an actual finger for their country and certainly haven’t fought any war outside of ones on social media of their own making) act like sharks who’ve come across an accidental school of tuna and work themselves into a frenzy. Opportunistic outragers!

A Muslim WOMAN pointing out that there are not only other victims of war outside of our diggers but that it IS STILL GOING ON RIGHT NOW! Holy fucking hell…..it becomes a battle-field and the drums start beating and the blood-lust bubbles. Seems also to me, that the army of ‘OUTRAGED and OFFENDED’ weaponed-up on social media, sit around just WAITING for something to be outraged and offended by (on behalf of someone else….always) and if that offense has been bristled by a MUSLIM WOMAN then they are become so hungrily frenzied that they are mouth-frothing on the verge of apoplexy. Someone call them a doctor! STAT!

It takes a lot to offend me… offence is a flimsy cloak to hide beneath and I don’t have much call for it. I’ve been eaten by a flesh-eating spider, I’ve given birth five times, I’ve been sexually assaulted, I’ve suffered profound loss but being OFFENDED has never caused me much concern because you CHOOSE to be offended. I choose not to be and I’ve been called a lot of things in my time. Not one toss was given.

My fellow AUSTRALIAN WOMEN WRITERS stand with me (mostly I hope) when I say that words are weapons and should sometimes only be wielded by those who know what they are doing. Social media is a platform where people say their bit. Freedom of speech. Debate is great. ANZAC DAY…still relevant? Worth a healthy discussion. But to use someone’s words against them with such vitriol, hatred and small-minded bitterness just because everyone else is throwing stones and flinging flint onto the burning mound is school-yard bullying and to my mind not only UNAUSTRALIAN but INHUMAN! Dick-heads should sometimes just zip it!

I showed my children what Yassmin wrote and then what the OFFENDED masses wrote and they were horrified. At 12 and 13 they could clearly see who was in the wrong…who was hateful. Yassmin didn’t incite that hate. She opened a window and inadvertently let the haters lean out and spew forth their hate. Yuk!

As a woman, a writer, an Australian, an atheist, a human being, a mother, sister, wife, pacifist, respecter of values and person with a deep regard and gratitude for fallen soldiers AND concern for those suffering because of war on Manus Island, Nauru, in Syria and in Palestine…..I stand with Yassmin!!!!!

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TRUMP’S WITCH HUNT

     The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, looked at the appalling events of the witch hysteria in Salem but it was actually analogous to the times in which he wrote it. The Crucible was shining a light on the Red Scare, the communist hysteria that was being promoted by Senator Joe McCarthy and the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover.

     My newly released novel (also based on historical events during the witch-hunting craze), HEXENHAUS, is similarly drawing a sharp parallel between the Early European witch burnings and the situation we find ourselves in today with government-endorsed racism and Islamaphobia sweeping across the globe. The Trump rhetoric that encourages a fear of ‘the other’ is encouraging another wave of hysteria. Policies that exclude minorities or persecute refugees are burning torches of hate stirring up the bonfire of fear and we are all poorer for it.

     This is history repeating itself. Wave after wave, the fear sweeps people up in hysteria, causing them to indulge in crazy behaviour that simply feeds the powerful and enslaves the common man and woman. The Inquisition, the burning of 100,000 witches across the globe for crimes, tried in courts of law, such as ‘riding to a coven on a flying black dog’ was a brutal reaction to an epidemic of fear. Eminent, intelligent, university-trained judges convicted people of such crimes because they had become so blinded by fear and hysteria that the ludicrous became real to them.

     We can look at this and say ‘how ridiculous that superstition ran riot’ but it happened again in Nazi Germany, it happened during the McCarthy-driven terror of ‘the reds’, the communists who were going to destroy the world as we know it. It is happening again in the Western world and like the frog in the boiling water, it is creeping up so insidiously that many don’t see it for what it is and can’t comprehend that they are being played by those in power.

     Fear, such as that seen in the witch hunts, the Jewish Holocaust, the Red Scare and the current Islamaphobia, sets off a chain of nasty behaviour, crushes civil liberties underfoot and limits everyone’s freedom. Lives of innocent people get turned upside down. False accusations. Blacklists. Political repression. Torture. Murder.

     Mark my words. There certainly is climate change going on. The climate of fear is hotting up.

     The anti-witch, anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic fervour shrinks us as human beings.

My book Hexenhaus tells the story of three young women caught up in the hysteria of their times. They are persecuted for outlandish and dangerously absurd accusations of witchcraft. While researching those dark burning times, it seemed incredible to me that such a horror could be perpetrated again and yet it goes on and on, only the words change.      Witch. Jew. Muslim. Refugee. Mexican. Feminist.

Fear-mongers are hungry beasts and in their greed for power they destroy us all and rob us of the many freedoms those before us fought so bitterly for, throughout history.

My book Hexenhaus shows how it happens. Please world, don’t let it happen again!

HEXENHAUS IS IN THE HOUSE

When I say that Hexenhaus is in the house what I really mean is that she is in book stores. Having this book published is a dream come true for me, one of those biguns from the bucket list crossed off….and don’t it feeeeeel good!!!

This is a tale of three girls whose stories span four hundred years and take us from medieval Germany with its witch hysteria to late seventeenth century Scotland where mysterious things are taking place in a manor house and all fingers point to the young maid and the accusation is leveled at her – WITCH…..and then there is our contemporary girl who just wants to get through her HSC and win the affections of a boy from her local small town but the burning torches start hunting her and her mother  after ludicrous, senseless gossip starts singeing the edges of their quiet lives.

My stories were drawn from family history, the very real and tragic tale of the Renfrewshire witches (sometimes known as the Paisley witches) and a letter that sits in the Hanover University Library, written by a man to his daughter from the Hexenhaus, a torture factory that became the prototype for Nazi concentration camps and the inspiration for the evil cottage in Hansel and Gretel. The modern story was drawn loosely from my own experience of living in a small town.

My characters are brave and courageous and I love them all. They are all drawn a little from myself and my two sisters.

The mass panic and hysteria that saw these girls go through absolute hell and triumph in spirit, one way or another, is a reflection, a mirror, to what is going on in our own sorry world right now. I’ll let you read it and draw your own comparisons!

You can purchase Hexenhaus (GREAT CHRISTMAS GIFT) at most good book stores. Or for your shopping pleasure and without the need to get up from where you are sitting now, you can click on any of these link and order it and it will be delivered to your door (lazy option).

Dymocks

Booktopia

Riverbend Books

Abbey’s Bookshop

Where the Wild Things Are

Potts Point Bookshop

Robinsons Bookshop 

 

 

LIFT-OFF

Well, there you go! HEXENHAUS was officially launched on Monday night with the help of the sensational Bec Mac. Launching a book is really one of the most rewarding aspects of the rather solitary life of a writer. For months and months and MONTHS you sit at your laptop and tap words, sculpt sentences, shuffle paragraphs and excise entire organs from your manuscript while keeping her heart beating and the passion simmering.

When you finally have that book in your hands it is an emotional experience but when you come together with all the people in your life that matter the most, to celebrate the safe arrival of your book, it is tantamount to a spiritual experience. Thank-you to Riverbend Books at Bulimba for your hospitality.

I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity by my publishers at UQP to breathe life into my three very special characters. Veronica, Katherine, Paisley; I salute you and I now send your stories of empowerment, courage under fire and grace in the most difficult of circumstances, into the world.

In The Crucible (which has inevitably been compared to my little book of witch hysteria)….there was the clearly drawn analogy to the hate and fear of McCarthyism, the Red Terror, fear of Communists, during the Cold War! IN HEXENHAUS I have drawn the timely parallel between the Early European witch-hunts and  irrational hysteria of imagined folk devils and the current climate in our world of politically driven ‘terror’ of others, the rife and hateful Islamaphobia that is dangerous and destructive to the inherent goodness of humanity. Love, tolerance and community are under direct attack by the insidious racism that runs, as an undercurrent, through our Western political systems. My novel of three young women facing persecution by scared and small-minded people shines a light on the source of people’s ability to be caught up in baseless hysteria when in a mob led by burning torches.

Perhaps my cautionary tale will help readers to see that historical connection. Let’s make sure that the Burning Times of the witch-hunts and the 20th century Holocaust do not ever happen again. Ever.

Hexenhaus is available in all good book stores – Dymocks, QBD and Booktopia and lots of independents like Where the Wild Things Are, Beachside Bookshop at Avalon Beach, Abbeys, Macleans, Riverbend Books, Love That Book and many, many more. Need I remind you that Christmas is coming up? Buy HEXENHAUS for yourself, a friend, your daughter and your grandmother.

Peace out.

Forgiveness

My last blog went viral. It just goes to show the power of words and indeed the power of social media. I was angry. I was outraged. A valued member of my community was racially bashed and we all felt it like a punch to the guts. It winded me with sorrow. Outrage is like a fire and it certainly fanned up a lot of angry responses.

But today’s blog is about something that probably won’t go viral because it isn’t about rage, it’s about forgiveness. The word itself viral suggests sickness. Certainly my blog was about a sickness, the disease of racism. Subjects that expose the ugly, the sick, the evil, they tend to spread like wildfire. Golly gosh, human beings love outrage. But the subject of forgiveness is about healing. And that’s the lesson I’ve learned through this awful local attack on good people.

Paul Shin has forgiven the boy who attacked him. That right there is the story. That right there is the diamond in this coal mine. A middle-aged Korean man was bashed, racially abused and had to cradle and comfort his wife who was also injured in the attack. Paul Shin has forgiven the boy who did this to them. I am tearing up and emotional just writing that.

They say forgiveness is like setting a prisoner free and the prisoner is the person doing the forgiving. After months of being targeted by unknown local arseholes, Paul Shin has set himself free by forgiving his seventeen year old attacker. He has said that the boy is at a crossroads in life and can take a good way or the dark way and he has encouraged the boy to take the good path in life.

Until you understand remorse you can’t really grasp true forgiveness. To have done the wrong thing and to have been forgiven is truly humbling. Remorse does not equal saying the word sorry. It must involve amends. Forgiveness is way harder to master than saying sorry.

I hope the boy involved in this crime (yes crime….not silly childish behaviour) understands the incredible gift Paul has given him. It is quite possibly the greatest gift he will ever receive. I hope with all my heart he doesn’t squander it. I hope his mother reinforces this with her son.

The local police officer quoted in my blog has now acknowledged there was a racial element to the assault which he finds disturbing and he sees Paul Shin’s acceptance of the boy’s apology as an incredible gesture of forgiveness. It is an incredible gesture and one we can all learn from – the community, the police, the media and the youths involved.

A racial assault on an innocent couple is more than just a mistake; it is a gaping cavern of awfulness. Paul’s forgiveness for that act is above all else showing that boy how to be a real and good and awe-inspiring man. Please, please, please young man, take heed, learn, be humbled, embrace your victim’s generosity of spirit and take it into the rest of your life.

The ball’s in your court kiddo. Grow up. Be a good man. Be like Paul.

 

Photo credit Brooke Rushton

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Something Rotten in the Town of Terrigal

Let me introduce you to Paul and Isabella Shin, Korean-born proprietors of The Little Shop in Terrigal. These people are the reason many locals stop by for a coffee anytime, every time they pass by. Paul greets his customers with an unforgettably wide smile and a genuine enthusiasm for their company. This welcoming sense of joy is why the locals refer to the store as The Happiest Little Shop in Terrigal, nay, in all of the Central Coast. Paul greets my children of a morning, on their way to school, with the mantra ‘have good study’ and it sets the tone for their day.

On the first day of the Australia Day long weekend, Paul and his wife were viciously attacked outside their shop. This came after months of persistent vandalism and abuse levelled at Paul and Isabella’s shop that had become so bad they reached out and asked for police and community assistance. This happy couple were hiding their terror behind smiles and finally just over a week ago, they were confronted by their worst fears. Fists. In their faces!

There was talk that the attack was racially motivated. This sickened and disgusted all of the Shin’s loyal customers and made the locals question the values of the kids who had been responsible for the attack. It made a lot of people very, very angry.

When we heard that Paul, in the wake of the attack was selling his business, it made a lot of people very, very sad. When we heard that Paul had decided, after talking with the mother and school principal of the boy responsible for the attack, to drop all charges and forgive the boy, we were inspired and very, very humbled by his unfathomable generosity of heart.

And then this!

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/central-coast/mother-of-boy-who-bashed-a-koreanborn-shop-owner-says-her-son-is-deeply-sorry-for-his-actions/news-story/40abb5d78bc4f0cd492eed3a4bcf6ce2

The Daily Telegraph and the local Express Advocate printed the worst piece of newsprint I have ever had the misfortune of reading. I can’t tell if the writer, Matt Taylor, was being ironic or genuinely believed the stuff he was writing but the gist of it goes……the police are now PRAISING the boy responsible for the attack and the boy’s mother because she made him apologise to Paul for racially abusing him and bashing him. Yes, you read that right. It gets worse and becomes the most racist piece of enabling rubbish I’ve ever read and it makes me ashamed to listen to one of our local policemen being quoted in the piece, saying ‘When you look at this matter, it wasn’t a racially motivated attack as such. It was children doing the wrong thing who then used racially inappropriate language.’ Excuse me!? Earlier in the same piece the mother of the main boy in the attack admits that her seventeen year old son (a mere child, according to the cop), told Paul to f* off you Asian as he hit Paul. I bought a bottle of water from Paul yesterday and ten days after the attack he is still sporting a black eye! I’m sorry but in anyone’s language, a seventeen year old punching a middle-aged Korean man in the face while calling him a f*ing Asian IS RACIST! To have the boy’s mother, the police and the media suggesting otherwise lets this kid off the hook, enables his behaviour and screams of trivialising racism in this community. And I won’t have it. Terrigal won’t have it.

The article panders vomitously to the attacker and his mother and no-where talks of the terror, the nightmares, the post-traumatic shock of Paul and his wife who are having to sell their store, their livelihood!

It gets worse.

The mother is quoted as saying her son had ‘manned up’ and apologised to Paul. Newsflash. Real men do not have to apologise for bashing a defenceless man while hurling racist insults at him. Real men do not put a middle-aged woman in hospital with injuries caused, according to the mother, when Isabella tried to step in to help her husband so that the boy accidentally elbowed her. She wasn’t merely elbowed. She was hurt so badly and was in such a state of shock that she was hospitalised. How dare this news article trivialise it as a consequence of Isabella walking into the boy’s elbow! What is wrong with the world when the police further trivialise this matter saying that the boys did not act with racial intent but because they were idiots and they were merely acting out of stupidity. The mother says her son realises how ‘silly’ his behaviour was.

I beg to differ, unnamed mother and Commander Superintendent Daniel Sullivan! Bashing a man and hurting women while calling them f*ing Asians is not silly, stupid or idiotic. It is evil.

‘It’s not good that it happened, but it’s a very good lesson for him in not what to do.’

That’s the mother again in the article, being given a voice to wash over her son’s behaviour and nowhere in the article does it even once speak of the lesson learned by Paul and Isabella Shin. I wonder what that lesson might be. The fact that they are selling the business speaks volumes.

This morning Paul has invited the community to a sausage sizzle to thank them for their outpouring of shock and support in the wake of the attack. Hundreds of people will be going to show their support to the happiest, most welcoming friends from The Little Shop. They will be very sorely missed.

What has sickened the community almost as much as the actual attack is the story in the local paper that focuses on the tears of a seventeen year old boy who was forced to apologise.

I wonder if the boy will be ‘manning’ the barbeque!

 

I will add that the journalist, Matt Taylor wrote a much more palatable piece one week earlier that I have been made aware of. To my mind this second piece undoes the good of the first. A journalist must never ASSUME a prior readership for anchoring a piece. The first article calls the attack racist…the second quotes the mother of the main perpetrator and the police as saying that it is not at all a racist attack. This has confused local readers. Does the mother have the right to the microphone? Hmmmm. The MAIN offender is seventeen. I’m not sure he still needs Mum  to go bat for him although as a mother of four sons I can really understand the protective, defensive instinct.

As a mother I understand the maternal instinct to defend your boys and see them in the best light. But I heard nothing of shame or the mother’s concern for how the Shin’s are coping and the remorse for them having to sell up and move in that article I critiqued and I guess that’s why most people found it offensive!

UPDATE

At the request of the writer of the piece I will ask you to read this first article of his and yes, it is a fine piece, but it should have been left there.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/central-coast/koreanborn-shop-owners-bashed-in-racially-motivated-latenight-attack-at-terrigal/news-story/e9871617051020f6ec47f042d4528718

I wish the writer, Matt Taylor, Mr Shin and Mrs Shin, and even the boys responsible and their families a long and happy, non-violent life……it starts with being willing to admit that sometimes you get it wrong.

Namaste Nik.x