What is it with Australians? Why are most of us such irredeemable fuckheads?

A bunch of refugees show up in a rickety boat, having crossed thousands of miles to escape the kind of terror and misery that we can’t even begin to imagine, and Australians react by writing angry letters to the The West Australian about how we should “send them back where they came from” and how “we decide who comes into this country.” The West feeds the fire by regularly splashing photos of boat people across the front page with headlines like “STRAIGHT TO OUR DOORSTEP.”

I hate the West. I really do. I read it because I don’t have much of a choice, it being the only daily in the state. The highlight of each paper is usually the letters to the editor, a seething nest of xenophobic snakes that lash out at anything remotely foreign and lament the road to ruin that we are surely rocketing down. And you know, the funny thing is, the day that the most recent SIEV exploded out near Ashmore, killing two and severely wounding dozens, the West ran two editorials by Andrew Probyn and Paul Murray. Both of them dispelled the notion that there is a “tide” of illegal immigrants threatening to “swamp” Australia, and pointed out some facts:

1. In 2008, 4750 people applied for (“applied for,” not “were granted”) asylum in Australia… compared to, say, 36,900 in Canada and 31, 200 in Italy.

2. Less than 1% of the global population of asylum seekers wind up on Australia’s shores.

3. The vast majority of asylum seekers (95% to 99%) in any given year arrive by plane, not by boat. The vast majority of illegal immigrants in Australia are not those who apply for refugee status, but rather those who arrive here legally on tourist or working visas and then simply remain when they expire.

Why does the West concurrently run reasonable, sensible articles on the one hand, and throw fear-mongering headlines around with the other? A rhetorical question. It sells papers, and all you need to give up in return is your journalistic integrity!

The fundamental truth is that asylum seekers are not, by any stretch of the imagination, a threat to Australia. They are poor, ragged, desparate human beings who throw themselves on our mercy. The fact that the previous government exploited them as a convenient political scapegoat, pandering to the worst kinds of ugly, racist elements in Australian society, is disgusting. The fact that the current government maintains the status quo for fear of being seen as “soft” is disgusting. The fact that most Australians still see refugees as a threat, a problem or an inconvenience, rather than as human beings who need our help, is disgusting.

We went camping on the weekend. Chris and I had an argument with the adults about the whole issue. I find it shocking that these people, mature adults whom I am very close to and whom I greatly respect, have such ignorant and bigoted views on the issue. My father complained that all the medevac flights and Navy rescues and surgical operations will cost a lot of (PRECIOUS TAXPAYER’S) money. What is the alternative? Letting them burn to death, or drown? How warped does your moral compass have to be to put a price tag on a human life? “They’re not from our country,” he said. How warped does your moral compass have to be for you to think that, simply because somebody was not born on the same patch of soil that you were, you have no obligation to PREVENT THEM FROM BURNING TO DEATH?

One of my aunts said “where do you draw the line?” I repeatedly tried to explain to her that there is no need to draw a line; that boat people are a non-issue; that the numbers are so miniscule as to be completely irrelevant. She stubbornly repeated the same line over and over.

Another of my aunts said she was genuinely concerned that Muslims could become a majority in Australia and somehow destroy our culture and not let us raise the flag, sing the anthem etc etc. Apart from being a mathematical impossibility, the fact that people view Muslims as some kind of all-devouring force of subjugation and destruction is so hysterical as to be completely laughable. “They come here and tell us how to live,” “if we tried that in their country we’d be shot,” “we’re not allowed to celebrate Christmas anymore” BLAH BLAH FUCKING BLAH. I’m so goddamn sick of hearing the same old, tired arguments with a foundation in nothing more than a filthy swamp of prejudice and xenophobia.

And this didn’t fucking happen by accident. Yes, the urge to fear and destroy anything different from us is deeply embedded in our genes, but it was fucking Howard who carefully, painstakingly nurtured that urge into violently nationalist sentiment over his eleven years in office. Now it’s part of the zeitgeist and it isn’t going away. We still have people perceiving a handful of Muslim refugees in leaky boats as some kind of MASSIVE OVERWHELMING THREAT to the Anglo-Saxon juggernaut that straddles this massive continent. Racism and intolerance has become a social norm.

I can’t wait till that generation dies.