Issue 3, Semester 1, 2019
“Let’s get this party started,” said Brenton Tarrant. That is all I know about the Christchurch mosque shootings, and about as much as I could take. (Many have died. I know that too.) Feelings of grief, anger, horror and hopelessness crackle through the static of social media. Even the news outlets are trying to be decent about the loss – everyone is, it seems, except for Senator Fraser Anning. In a media statement released on Friday, the man suggested that the shootings were indicative of a “growing fear within our community…of the increasing Muslim presence”, and that Islam is a “savage belief” which is the “religious equivalent of fascism”. These comments compounded upon the fractures left by the shootings, in a way that feels almost unbearable. First there were shots, and then blood; and now these words, these untruths that fill us with outrage. In the face of such unspeakable pain, it is outrage that emboldens us, makes us articulate again. We know to label such comments ‘hate speech’, and ‘bigotry’. We meet Anning’s words with our own, holding him accountable. But to meet them is to assume that behind those words, there is a man who we can reach. Yet sometimes all that is behind such words is a spectre of a man, one who cannot take responsibility for his words, or for his office. The real man may be elsewhere; I do not know.
If this man will not use his words properly, then I will use them for him. I will say that there is no truth to what he has said, and I do not say this in the spirit of outrage, but with the quiet confidence of someone who believes that the possibilities of religion exceed the evils of their institutions. In this historical moment fraught with pain and helplessness, I return to the power of knowing the things that I have always known, and stand with those who share in these truths.
Perhaps this is a limited act. Perhaps I could be angry, and do more. But to declare my own limits is to establish our own jurisdictions, and to stand by our own ways of knowing. In my world, there is much I do not know about the shootings, or the particular species of grief that inhabits it. But in here I know enough to say: pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Editor's note: On request of the author, we have included a link to a petition demanding Fraser Anning resign from the Senate. Access to the petition here.
Janelle is a Fourth Year JD Student and former Managing Editor of De Minimis (2018).
Other articles in this issue: