March 22, 2015 by Paul Goldsmith
Do you HAVE to love your country? If you don’t love your country, should you leave it? I’m not just asking rhetorical questions here. I’m asking you what you think.
Is it not possible to LIKE your country, or love it sometimes and be embarrassed of it sometimes? Shouldn’t it be possible to make it your life’s work to point out imperfections and try to improve your country to meet the ideals by which it was created. Or maybe to question traditions?
If you feel alienated by your country, or maybe the behaviour of its’ current government, can you not feel that at the moment you don’t love your country but you might again if things change?
Is not a country just a place where you live right now, and have friends and family, and a community you feel safe and fulfilled with, without needing to actually LOVE the country?
I ask all these questions because of the singlet sold by Woolworths stores in Australia. Under an Australian flag was the message “If you don’t love it, leave”. Think about that message for the moment. From your point of view, and now from the point of view of an immigrant. Sounds pretty hostile doesn’t it?
That’s what lawyer Mariam Veiszadeh thought, posting a picture of the T-Shirt and the message “I’m outraged that #WOOLWORTHS are allegedly selling these bigoted singlets at their Cairns stores” on Twitter. As her message trended online, Woolworths pulled the T-shirts from their stores and what could be easily filed as an error of judgement could have ended there.
Only the far right didn’t like what she wrote. First, the Australian Defence league shared her comments with its 5,000 fans on facebook. This led to a young woman being arrested for posting a stream of racist abuse on Veiszadeh’s facebook page.
Then the Daily Stormer blog, based in the USA but with a strong Australian following, published an article containing a definite call to action – “Gentlemen, I think we all know what needs to be done here. Get out your Twitter accounts – make as many as you can… We need to be as hurtful as possible when abusing her, and we need to offend her Moslem sensibilities too.” Veiszadeh got heavily trolled and, given the accounts were anonymous, all she could do was report the offending accounts to Twitter.
Thankfully, plenty of Australians, and others around the world, have been supporting Mariam Veiszadeh through the hashtag #istandwithmariam.
More importantly, her life story has been highlighted, and its one worth thinking about. In particular, the first paragraph.
“I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan during the Soviet War in 1984. I, like every other human being living on this earth, didn’t exercise any choice in where, or the circumstances in which I would be born.
Due to the Soviet war my family had to flee Afghanistan in 1988. Our journey took us from Kabul to India, to the Czech Republic, followed by Germany and then finally we were granted asylum in Australia in 1991 under the Refugee and Special Humanitarian program.
I was enrolled in school both in India and Germany, each time making new friends and learning a completely new language. Upon arrival in Australia I was immediately enrolled into English as Second Language (ESL) classes.
Now when I reflect on my humble beginnings, it is still unbelievable to think that I arrived in Australia as a shy 7 year old who couldn’t speak a word of English. I will be forever grateful to Australia for the educational opportunities I have been given and for allowing my family and I, to call Australia our ‘home’.”
She makes a very important point about immigration that few people think about when they try to block it. People can’t choose the circumstances into which they are born. So when someone chooses to come to your country, it should be celebrated, because it normally means yours is a country that they would prefer to live in than elsewhere. That doesn’t necessarily mean she has to love her country, but reading her story she does love the opportunities it has given her.
Those lucky enough to have been born in a safe, democratic country who think that someone who doesn’t love their country should leave it should be invited to try where people came from, then they would understand why they come, and be proud of it, and immigrants too.