I woke up today, as I did yesterday, with the feeling of lurching from a dull and horrifying dream. I woke up with a dry mouth and a heavy heart, but not with the acute fear and taste of metal that many people and their communities will be waking up to every day now on the front line of President Trump’s dangerous and undoubtedly deadly new regime.
I also woke up with a new feeling that I have been struggling with in recent weeks, and that feeling is one of guilt, and shame, and bile. It says, “you did this too.” It says, “you have one too.” It says, “don’t pretend there is not blood in your home.”
Don’t blink, it says.
I watched a terrifying episode of Dr Who some years ago about the Weeping Angels. The Weeping Angels are psychopaths in the form of stone statues who can only move when they are not being watched, but when you look away they can move at tremendous speeds. They feed off potential. They send their victims back into their own past and build strength off the days their victims were unable to live out, the potential that the victim once had.
The analogy does not quite hold up. While Weeping Angels walk amongst us, they are not made of stone, and they do not send back into another dimension (at least, I don’t think that’s what happens.) And we can’t destroy them by forcing them to look at each other.
They do though convince us to avert our eyes, to harden our hearts, and that the potential of others is not worth as much as our own. And when we blink they dismantle the things that we know to be true. So that slowly – and sometimes quickly – our benchmarks shift. Our normalcy is changed. And we don’t have to blink often for them feed, because we’ve simply decided not to look.
Australia and America have walked in lockstep for much of history when it comes to staring stony faced into the eyes of fellow humans who need our help. We invaded someone else’s land, killed them with guns and disease, and then passed into law restrictions which became known as the White Australia Policy.
We turned away many desperate people, including Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.
We said the same things then as we say now: that we are scared they will take our jobs, won’t assimilate, will trash our culture. That we only want to take ‘our fair share’ of human beings fleeing extermination and almost unthinkable cruelty.
I bring this up because it is relevant. It is part of what Robert Manne so beautifully and tragically describes as ‘the process whereby the arteries of the nation gradually hardened,’ and because while we are repelled by Donald Trump and his fascist regime we must be careful not to avert our gaze from our own. We must not take our eyes off his, nor our own, not just because bones are breaking beneath Border Force feet; but also because neo nazis are celebrating by waving our flag.
When little men run the world the rule of law dissolves and entire institutes buckle at the knees, because to little men these things are not worth the weight of their egos.
America too has a long and racist history of banning groups of people from entering the US (and dispossessing those who have always been there). America implemented the Asiatic-barred-zone and then the “national-origins system” to systematically assess who was let in, and who was kept out based on their nationality. As with the formal end to the White Australia policy here in Australia in 1966, America too passed legislation to end discrimination “in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth or place of residence.”
But President Trump has paid no heed to this history, or perhaps more likely, it is precisely because of this history, and these inconvenient laws which – to his mind – pretend to have the ability to curtail his power, and he has signed an executive order to ban immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, and all refugees, from entering America for the next 90 days.
And we welcomed it. As the ‘Opposition leader’ (if you can call him that) puts platitudes on the internet and says we support “non-discriminatory immigration policy,” that we “embrace diversity” and that “we are the home of the fair go for all;” the regime that he helped built declared their support for Donald Trump’s “strong immigration and border protection policies.”
Don’t blink. You might miss the ‘alternative facts’ that are being bandied around as people’s lives are being played.
First we locked up our “own indigenous peoples in reserves, institutions and camps.” Then, we built detention centres on offshore islands where we tortured those from elsewhere. We blinked and sent men in uniforms out on ships to send people back to face their persecutors and their executors. We blinked and passed laws to stop people speaking the truth.
We have spent the last ten years eroding the foundations of the institutions that were designed to protect us from little men with big egos and their absolute belief that there are no laws and there are no institutions that can stop them — unless we make it so.
I don’t have the solutions to the terrifying reality of little men with huge power, building internment camps, building walls and banning people. I just know that to find the answers we must not blink.
“Don’t blink. Don’t even blink. Blink and you’re dead. Don’t turn your back. Don’t look away. And don’t blink.” – The Doctor