I want to write something on the Sydney siege at the Lindt café, which ended so tragically early this morning. But at times like this, words fail me. When I think about what the poor hostages and their families went through my brain responds with a welter of feeling that basically translates to NOPE.
Still, I’m going to try and get something down here. Please bear with me.
I don’t live in Sydney. But I know the Lindt café—my son had a series of tests done at the Sydney Eye Hospital, just across the road from Martin Place, back in February. We had afternoon tea at the café; the food, drink and service were all excellent, and it was definitely the high point of our trip. (The photo above is one I snapped on my phone, probably giddy with delight … and sugar.)
I’m the sort of person that tends to take refuge in humour when I’m anxious or upset. Laugh or cry, I guess you’d say. When I heard about the siege yesterday morning, one of my first thoughts after I’d confirmed the whereabouts of friends who work in the CBD was, “What kind of madman has such a beef with coffee and chocolate?!”
So I tried to laugh. I’ve done my share of crying too.
The first thing I encountered when I logged onto Twitter after work yesterday was a racist tweet from someone purporting to be Jewish, tarring all Muslims with the same hateful brush as the gunman. The second was from the Australian Defence League, a bunch of bogan wankers who are our equivalent of the Westbro Baptist Church. Only dumber. They were attempting to incite a riot.
It made me feel sick, and the idea that there might be some sort of racist backlash against innocent Muslims filled me with dread. Aside from anything else, you just know that’s what this nutjob was hoping for—because creating that sort of backlash might result in young Muslims who see their hijab-wearing relatives hurt being radicalised. It’s a win for the bad guys.
Still, then something amazing happened. A woman on a train yesterday afternoon saw a Muslim lady take her hijab off and hide it.
Seeing this, another woman, @sirtessa, started a hashtag with the details of which bus she catches: #illridewithyou (Read more here. It’s powerful stuff.) And suddenly everyone was tweeting what bus or train they’d be on this morning, volunteering to ride with anyone who was afraid of retaliation.
This is one of the reasons I cried, you guys. Australians like to make a lot of “mateship”—that sense that we’re all in it together, and that you look out for others. “Mate” is defined pretty broadly at times, to include anyone you have something in common with. Some days I’ve felt like it’s all words. #illridewithyou proved me wrong.
It was breathtaking. It made me teary. And I’m proud to be Australian.
My thoughts are with the families and friends of the hostages that died, and with the surviving hostages and their families. I can’t imagine how you are all feeling right now. I hope those that were injured, including the police officer, recover swiftly, and that all the hostages are able to heal mentally as well.
I don’t take public transport, given the peculiarities of my circumstances. Still. If I did, I’d ride with you.