Not my city. Not here. Not now. Not ever. Not my city. Not the people I love. Not the people I know. Not my city. No, no, no. Today there was a hostage situation in Martin Place, right in the centre of Sydney. A man has been holding people in a cafe since this morning. It’s five o’clock now and they’ve been there since ten in the morning.
One of my friends was approaching the cafe just moments after the gunman entered. She chose to walk away when she caught a glimpse of the gun. Another friend works a few blocks away from the cafe and was evacuated from their building just in case there was more at play than previously thought.
And all this is happening within twenty minutes of my home. It’s in the city that I love. I spend nights there revelling in the lights and the buildings and drinking coffee. This danger is close. It’s so close.
Australia is far enough from the rest of the world that it’s easy to feel safe. It’s easy to believe that we’re immune to the fear that grips so much of the rest of the world, and though that fear sometimes creeps into our consciousness, we’re rarely ever held so tightly by it that we wind up gasping for air.
Here we are, though. Gasping for air. We’ve watched some hostages escape. We’ve watched the fear on their faces as they burst through the doors and I don’t dare speculate about what’s on their minds as they run, what fears they’re facing, what they saw and suffered before they got out. We, the safe, are suddenly scared.
Fear breeds anger, though. We’ve seen it in other places and in other moments. We’ve seen the way people hate what they’re afraid of. Even in times of relative peace, there are stories of muslim women walking through the city being abused for their beliefs. The nudges of fear within us lead us to lash out and now? Now I’m afraid of what this fear will do.
I’m afraid that this day will cause muslim women to fear walking the streets. I’m afraid that this will be used to justify belief that immigrants don’t belong here. I’m afraid that instead of uniting in the face of fear, we will divide and spit in the face of innocents.
Why don’t we unite instead? Why don’t we be a nation that hates hate, no matter what race or religion we are? Why don’t we stand together and face tomorrow hand in hand rather than fist to fist? Why must this fear we feel so rightly push us towards anger when it could push us to hope harder, to pray more, to work at being one?
But strewn throughout all these thoughts is the refrain, simple and persistent… Not my city, not my home, not the people I love, not my city, no, no no.
God, help us.