Are Australians really so cruel?

I woke this morning to the news that 71% of Australians support the LNP’s Stop the Boats policy. 59% support off-shore processing.

My heart despairs that I live among so many people who are willing to endorse unnecessary cruelty to other human beings.

I tell myself it because they don’t know the truth. That the ‘genius’ of off-shore detention is that the problem is out-of-sight, out-of-mind, that most people would care, if our government wasn’t working so hard to let them forget the reality.

The reality of it is that we are locking children up behind chain-link fences and razor wire and leaving them to rot.

It’s costing us billions to do it, too. At a time when we are being told that we can’t afford to help pensioners who scrape by on couple of hundred dollars a week to pay for their medicines or heat their homes, we spend literally billions on building prisons for people in third world countries and paying big global corporations to run them for us.

As if it’s not bad enough that we are running camps that look exactly like the concentration camps run by the Nazis, we are also cruel in the way we run them. We force women and girls to queue for four hours to get sanitary pads. There is no reason to humiliate people, but we do it anyway.

I know that there has been 30 years of anti-asylum seeker propaganda. I know that millions of dollars are spent to perpetuate the hate, and I try to fight that, because I have to believe that Australians are better than the beliefs they currently espouse.

Some who support the policy defend their view in terms of compassion:

“We must stop them dying at sea”

This is part of the government propaganda: false concern from our ‘leaders’ about deaths at sea. So much better that they die in one of our camps? That they set fire to themselves, starve themselves, fall prey to tropical diseases while locked up in Australian detention camps? That makes no sense to me.

Another argument is that “they support real refugees”, but we are not processing the offshore asylum seekers anymore. We simply park them in third world countries and leave them to rot. Stay here forever, or go back to where you came from, that’s the ‘choice’ they are given. We don’t know who is ‘real’ and who is not. We do know that 80-90% of boat arrivals have found to have genuine claims. For the sake of the minority, we punish the majority. Is that fair? Is that right?

And those who have been found to be real refugees get no quarter. The government just announced cuts the the Australian Refugee Council that will cripple it: $140,000 a year. Not even enough to fund the Paid Parental Leave for three rich women, but enough to fund support and protection and advocacy for hundreds of ‘real’ refugees.

“There are too many”, is another argument. This baffles me. Because we may not be able to help everyone, we should help no one?

“This is what the majority want” people are saying, “that’s how a democracy works”. What happened to leadership? The “majority” used to think it was alright for one person to own another person as a slave. Hitler was very popular for awhile, until the extent of his cruelty was known. Do you have no moral compass? Are we sheep?

As mothers everywhere have said to their children, “If everyone else was jumping off a cliff, would you jump too?”

I was taught to treat others as I would want to be treated. If you support the policy and you’ve got this far, please look into your heart and answer truthfully: If Australia was being torn apart by war and you had to seek asylum, how would you want to be treated? If you were separated from your children while trying to protect them from rape and murder, how would you want them to be treated? If your answer is that you would want to be treated with dignity and compassion, and be given a chance to make a new life, please rethink your position.

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