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America Is Australia In Three Years, If We're Not Careful

Australians don't need a wall... because we have an ocean.

11/11/2016 9:05 AM AEDT | Updated 11/11/2016 9:05 AM AEDT
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"Many Australians feel the same frustration as white, middle America."

My social media feed is full of Australian friends calling Americans stupid. I understand. There is a bitter taste in my mouth, too. But outrage and name-calling is what got us here in the first place. If we don't change how we talk about and to people with opposing political views, Australia's future is not much brighter.

You see, Australians don't need a wall... because we have an ocean. Many Australians feel the same frustration as white, middle America -- loss of jobs, loss of authority, loss of respect and, most importantly, loss of identity. New waves of migrants make many of us feel uncomfortable. Women in leadership positions make us feel distrust. Is that racist? Is that sexist?

As a female immigrant, let me tell you -- whether it's racist or sexist is beside the point. You can't tell people how to feel. Regardless of what label you -- you elitist, feminist, latte-sipping hipster -- put on it, you can't change how people feel just by putting a nasty label on it. This is where we are going wrong.

Not long ago, Sonia Kruger got absolutely pillaged for voicing her opinion on immigration. There was widespread outrage. Do you think that outrage and public shaming changed her mind? Or the minds of people who think like her? NO.

What is missing from the political discourse is persuasion. Waleed Aly aside, there were few, if any, politicians or social commentators who responded in the wake of Kruger's comments with: "Look, I understand where those comments come from. They come from a place of fear in times of global uncertainty. But listen, let me tell you why giving into that fear is a mistake."

Unfortunately, one Waleed Aly video liked a gazillion times on Facebook does not an open dialogue make. In a world where people can choose their own news source, it is not good enough to have only a handful of social commentators trying to use logic and rational arguments to persuade the other side. We all need to engage with people who have a different view. But, most importantly, we need our politicians to do exactly what they were elected to do and lead.

Leadership means taking people along with you. It means persuading people who otherwise would be temped to give in to an easy option. It means listening to people's concerns and explaining how those concerns will be addressed. What leadership isn't, Mr Turnbull, is trying to appease those feelings of fear by rolling out a policy platform that reinforces that fear. You've stopped the boats, you've stopped gay marriage, but the fear is still there. Every time you give in a little bit more to the fear of the other, to the fear of the unknown, you reinforce stereotypes, you reinforce fears, and you push the people of Australia further apart from one another.

Regardless of your political persuasion, it is time Australians and our leaders re-learned how to have a conversation without resorting to names, labels and public shaming. The art of persuasion -- let's bring it back.

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