As surely the whole world knows, yesterday and overnight a mentally-disturbed man with a long legal history bailed up 17 or so people in the Lindt cafe in Sydney, demanding to speak to Australia’s Prime Minister, and seeking wide publicity for his points of view.
We do not wish to talk about him.
We do wish to note the outpouring of grief and support from the Australian people for the families of those killed, and the victims themselves, for those terrified and injured, and for ourselves – for the whole nation – which has been deeply shocked by the scenes of the last 24 hours.
The flowers are gathering at the site of the seige. All day, Aussies have quietly turned up, written in books of remembrance, laid down flowers, and stood in silence. Many in tears, all in shock.
They have been joined by politicians and notables, police officers and emergency workers, but mainly it has been the ordinary Australians who have trekked to Martin Place to be part of the mourning.
And uniquely, and so typically Australian, a single woman’s gesture – “I’ll ride with you”- spoken quietly to a Muslim woman who was removing her hijab for fear of being abused, spat on or assaulted – all things that have happened recently – has “gone viral” and been repeated by millions of people worldwide, who wish the wider Muslim community to know that they are not blamed for the actions of lunatics or fanatics.
Muslims arriving to place flowers at the site have been especially welcomed with quiet smiles, a touch of approval on a shoulder, a gentle look.
Today is a very sad day to be an Australian. It is also a great day to be an Australian. As so often in this remarkable nation, it is the ordinary people who show the true mettle of the country, who reveal in the simplest of human ways the unique communal nature of this wide brown land.
There will be other horrors. There will also, sadly, be some extremist idiots who inevitably break the seal of national tolerance.
But the true Australian spirit – the spirit of its people, not its luminaries – stood up and was counted today, under the most painful of circumstaces. I am so proud of my fellow citizens, and have never regretted for an instant asking to belong to this tolerant, good natured, welcoming and egalitarian nation, the very essence of which is “everybody comes from somewhere else.”
Our deepest sympathies go out to all caught up in this madness.