Further Thoughts About Election Day

I’ve recalled a few more conversations and events from election day. On top of those I documented a few days back.

While I was handing out how-to-vote cards at a booth I’ve now discovered was called North Reservoir, we were approached by a woman with a very confusing question. She asked me and my fellow Green what would happen if she voted Green and Alex Bhathal was elected – would it still be a Labor seat? For a moment we had no idea what she meant, did she mean that if there was a hung parliament that the Greens would side with Labor to form government? After a few minutes discussion it turned out that she didn’t understand that one electorate has one member who can be defeated by another candidate at the election, from a different political party. After we explained she was most relived, took a flier and went and voted.

I’ve never thought our system of democracy here in Australia was particularly complicated. The nation is divided into seats, each of which is represented by one member in parliament. Every three years or so an election is held, you number some boxes on a green piece of paper, eat a sausage, and the votes are tallied. The candidate with the most votes wins, and represents the people of their seat and their party in parliament. I’m going to suggest to the AEC that they do some kind of refresher course, a broadcast perhaps, just so every knows the basics.

I’ve also recalled more of the conversation I had with that revolting woman from the Australian Christians. We were arguing the merits of the Safe Schools program, which at heart is designed to reduce the bullying of LGBTI teens. I said “You know gay and lesbian teens have one of the highest levels of suicide?”. She ignored me. On the subject of same-sex marriage, I said “You’re effectively denigrating the relationships of some of my good friends.” This also had no impact. In retrospect I should have told her that I am a known donor for two lesbian couples – that would have sent her into a lather. Her arguments all boiled down to a veiled homophobia and a very very traditional view of the nuclear family.

As I said, I felt sad for my cross-dressing, queer, lesbian and gay friends. When it’s getting so people are afraid to show affection to their same-sex partners in public, it makes me feel like intolerance is in the ascendancy. Everywhere should be a safe place. Every school should be safe.

I’m an atheist, but I’m relatively certain that Christianity claims to be a peaceful and inclusive religion, where people are taught not to judge. I might be an atheist, but sometimes I’m a better christian than those who profess the faith. A better christian than those who organise a political party with the sole aim of imposing their beliefs on everyone.

In the past I’ve retained people in my circle who are more to the right of the political spectrum than me. I know where I stand, and I felt the need to hear other points of view, to hear what they other side was thinking. But I was disappointed. To a man, and indeed woman, these people I tried to interact with turned out to be unpleasant and reactionary. Someone would post an anti-Islam picture on Facebook, and I would try and explain why I thought it was wrong. My arguments fell on deaf ears. Islam is bad, that is it, like this was some kind of fact of nature. I had folks from the right making snide and rude remarks when Joan Kirner – a lovely woman I met briefly once – passed away last year. They didn’t say “Oh how sad”, rather there was mocking of her polka-dot dresses. I disliked Fraser, despite his attempts later in life to resurrect his image. Or, it would seem, he stayed the small-l Liberal he’d always been and the Liberal party lurched to the right. Either way, when he died I was sad. No matter how old and no matter their politics, it’s sad when someone passes. But no such sympathy for Kirner or Gough from these supposed adults I knew. And the pattern repeats itself. I had a heated discussion on Twitter just before the election over asylum seekers. A women who was actively proud of her migrant background was perfectly happy that we are locking up children who had dared to try and enter the country. The hypocrisy was extraordinary, but she couldn’t see it.

I like to think the things I believe are based in fact. I like to think that my beliefs are rational and that I can defend them. And, importantly, if someone can show me clearly that I’m wrong, I’m willing to change. If someone can provided clear evidence that the world is not warming, I’ll change my stance. Trouble is the folks I engage with on this that subject can’t and don’t create a decent argument. All one hears is “are you shouldn’t believe anything you read in that newspaper” or “Ah it’s clearly all a conspiracy”. I once got called a Socialist on Twitter, like that was some kind of insult. I was troubled – I quite readily self-identify as a socialist. Or at least someone who doesn’t have a “I got mine, fuck you” attitude. I like to think there are conservatives out there who can muster an argument and defend their point, but I have yet to meet one.

Meanwhile, at the time of writing, the election counting goes on. Meanwhile the current prime minister is sure he can form some kind of government. The seat I put the most effort into, Batman, still hangs in the balance. And the UK has no government to speak of, and some orange-coloured freak in the United States is making disturbing stabs at the presidency. All the while the planet keeps warming, the reef keeps dying, the children and babies are still in an off-shore prison camp, and people continue to be maimed in Iraq a decade after it was “liberated”. It would be so much easier to not care. To just cover one’s ears and go “La la la”. Or the suburban equivalent, sitting on the couch with a beer watching some kind of competitive cooking show…