Je Suis Charlie

“I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.” -Oscar Wilde

Freedom of speech & expression is the foundation on which our society is built. It’s how we challenge & reinvent ourselves as a species. It forces us to deal with inconvenient truths. It teaches us how to empathise. Oppressing it through censorship is criminal. Oppressing it through violence is utterly unforgivable.

RIP to all who lost their lives at Charlie Hebdo. Your pens were mightier than their guns. And they always will be. 

#JeSuisCharlie

Cartoon by David Pope

Cartoon by David Pope

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To the Australians using the Sydney siege tragedy to spout anti-Muslim hate

We are one. But we are many.Our hearts ache for the victims of the Sydney siege & their families. To the racist people & media spouting anti-Muslim rhetoric in the wake of this terrible event- using tragedy & the actions of a few to paint an entire religion with the same ugly brush is the most un-Australian thing you could do.

We’re all part of the same race, the human race, so start acting like it and stop your generalising & fear-mongering. Using people’s deaths to victimise innocent human beings is to disrespect their memory.

And please wake up to the future consequences of your actions. If we start down this path it won’t be long before “‘Straya” becomes the next “‘Murica”. Once that happens there’s no going back. We are Australian; our diversity is & always will be our greatest strength. Especially in our darkest hours.

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Happy Thanksgiving to all our US fans! And happy Native American Heritage Month too.

"Council of 3" - National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

“Council of 3″ – National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Artist unknown.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! And happy Native American Heritage Month too.

Wishing you all an amazing day with family & friends. We’re on tour in Texas and some fans in Dallas are making us part of their family tonight!

We hope everyone takes some time out to talk about what today means from a Native American perspective. Jacqueline Keeler, a member of the Dineh Nation & Yankton Dakota Sioux, wrote a moving essay called ‘Thanksgiving: A Native American View’. In it she talks about the Native Americans who fed the pilgrims through the winter and taught them how to grow their food:

“These were not merely ‘friendly Indians.’ They had already experienced European slave traders raiding their villages for a hundred years or so, and they were wary—but it was their way to give freely to those who had nothing. Among many of our peoples, showing that you can give without holding back is the way to earn respect.”

That’s not too far off what children are taught at school. But the aftermath is usually glossed over:

“Within 20 years European disease and treachery had decimated the Wampanoags. By 1623, Mather the elder, a Pilgrim leader, was giving thanks for destroying the heathen savages to make way “for a better growth.” … We have seen the evil that it caused in the 350 years since. Genocide, environmental devastation, poverty, racism.”

But she then goes on to say:

“Where is the hero who will destroy that heart of evil? I believe it must be each of us. Indeed, when I give thanks and I cook my native food, I will be thinking of this hidden heart and how my ancestors survived the evil it caused.

Because if we can survive, with our ability to share and to give intact, then the evil and the goodwill that met that Thanksgiving day in the land of the Wampanoag will have come full circle.

And the healing can begin.”

Imagine a day of celebrating family & friends, reflection, mourning & reconciliation in equal parts. That would be a pretty special day indeed. And that’s how we’re going to try & celebrate our first Thanksgiving in the USA.

Peace & love to you all!

America: Get out & vote. It’s more productive than complaining

Voter suppression by couchToday America votes in the midterm elections. During our roadtrip from NY to LA we’ve been bombarded with the most bizarre campaign ads we’ve ever seen. They slur the opposition, avoid talking about the candidate’s real policies & the estimated cost of this media circus? Around $3.5 billion. Considering the number of domestic issues the US is struggling with (homelessness, poverty, a failing education system, crime) it’s ludicrous.

But the hardest thing for us to wrap our heads around is the number of Americans who (passionately) tell us they want change but don’t vote. In the 2010 midterm elections only 36.9% of eligible people voted. That’s disturbing considering how much power rests in the hands of the senate, congress & state / territorial governors.

Some typical excuses we’ve heard:

  • “I hate lining up” Umm….
  • “They make it hard to find a polling place” Have you tried looking?
  • “I don’t have time to vote” Fair enough if you’re working 3 jobs. Not if you’re running late for American Idol.
  • “Voter discrimination stops people from voting!” Yes it does. But 60% of the population? Don’t think so. It’s up to those who can vote to work on changing things for everyone else.
  • “All the candidates are just as bad as each other” Choosing the lesser of 2 evils is still a step in the right direction, and much better than no step at all.
  • “Nothing ever changes so what’s the point?” Political change takes time. Generations even. So best to get started, right?

Still, voting is only meaningful if you make an informed decision. Most Americans we’ve met know mainstream media companies are aligned with either the Republican Party or Democrats. Yet they still rely on them as their main source of voting information. A little research goes a long way.