I’ll Walk/Ride With You: Coming Together in the Face of Violence in Sydney

By Sheila Kennedy

[Originally published at SheilaKennedy.net on December 19, 2014]

probably wouldn’t have followed the hostage-taking incident in Sydney, Australia so closely, but my middle son is currently visiting the city. (Knowing his mother–and being a good son–he called even before I’d heard the  news reports, telling me “don’t freak out, I’m nowhere near where this is occurring.”)
We now know that this horrific episode, which cost two innocent people their lives, was not a terrorist act, at least in the political sense; it was a solitary crime committed  by a mentally-deranged individual. Still, as Reuters reported, the perpetrator’s move to force hostages to display an Islamic flag ” immediately raised hackles in some quarters.”
A man shouting anti-Islamic abuse near the café during the standoff was moved on by police, while Muslim community leaders reported women wearing the hijab had been spat on.
Then something heartwarming happened:
Inspired by the Twitter hashtag “I’ll ride with you”, some commuters heading into the city for work on Tuesday gave their support to Muslims who might feel vulnerable amid concerns about a blowback after the hostage drama. 
The hashtag was trending around the world, popping up across Asia, Europe, Africa and North America as it featured in more than 300,000 tweets. Actor Russell Crowe, who grew up in Sydney and keeps a home here, added his star power to the campaign.
Sydney is home to around half of Australia’s 500,000 Muslims.
The hashtag began trending on Twitter ahead of the evening commute on Monday, sparked by a Facebook post by Sydney woman Rachael Jacobs who described her encounter with a Muslim woman who took off her head covering: “I ran after her at the train station. I said ‘put it back on. I’ll walk with you’.” 
That prompted other Sydneysiders to take to Twitter, detailing their bus and train routes home and offering to ride with anybody who felt uncomfortable, using the hashtag “Illwalkwithyou”. 
On Tuesday morning, Jacobs said she was overwhelmed with the campaign she had inadvertently started: “Mine was a small gesture because of sadness that someone would ever feel unwelcome because of beliefs.”
I’d like to believe that something similarly spontaneous and reassuring could happen in the United States–that enough of us would put aside the stereotyping and suspicion of people with whom we don’t share beliefs or skin color or other tribal markers, to see each other simply as humans to whom we should offer reassurance and support.
I’d like to believe that, but given the animus permeating today’s environment, I’m not sure I do.

Sheila Kennedy is a former high school English teacher, former lawyer, former Republican, former Executive Director of Indiana's ACLU, former columnist for the Indianapolis Star, and former young person. She is currently an (increasingly cranky) old person, a Professor of Law and Public Policy at Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis, and Director of IUPUI's Center for Civic Literacy. She writes for the Indianapolis Business Journal, PA Times, and the Indiana Word, and blogs at www.sheilakennedy.net. For those who are interested in more detail, links to an abbreviated CV and academic publications can be found on her blog, along with links to her books..

The Lotus Eater – Queer Cinema Kickstarter Project Launch

The Lotus Eater – Queer Cinema Kickstarter Project Launch
As a gay man I have always been disappointed at the lack of realistic representation of LGBTQ characters in media. It is no longer rare to see gay characters in film and television, in fact now there a plenty of shows and movies with Queer leads and even entire networks dedicated to gay oriented programming. However it feels as though there is little to no variety from one representation to the next. At a time when homosexuals are obtaining the civil rights they have been deprived of for hundreds of years in this country, it seems appropriate that we transcend the usual stereotypical caricatures and move on to more complicated and dynamic story lines and characters.

I began writing the feature length film The Lotus Eater two years ago as a result of my own fears of the physical violence and abuse that many LGBTQ individuals face on a daily basis. This project started in part as a way to face these fears for myself, and also as a way to bring awareness to this aspect of queer life that many people may not be aware of. For myself, this project represents a chance to tell a story involving a complicated queer character that goes beyond the stereotypical conventions usually allotted such a character in media.

As a Telecommunications major at Indiana University, I have access to incredible resources, information, and individuals that have helped this project move from an idea in my mind to a realistic project that I am incredibly excited and proud of. The platform that Kickstarter.com provides for us is one that has not been around for very long. Ten years ago it would have been nearly impossible for a project such as this to ever see the light of day. Today however it is far more than realistic. With the contributions of individuals from around the world that would like to see a project such as this come to life, we can reach our goal!
$20,000 is a lot of money, but compared to the amount spent on a typical motion picture production it’s hardly anything at all. Because our cast and crew will work for free, our budget essentially covers the cost of renting equipment. Our window for funding ends on Thursday January 15th at 2:32pm EST. As per the rules of Kickstarter, if we do not reach our full goal by this time no one is charged for their contribution and we do not receive any funds.
I appreciate you reading this article and hope you’ll check out our Kickstarter page! Even if you can’t give money, spreading the word by sharing our info on social media is just as valuable. After all, if 20,000 people saw this project and just gave $1 we would meet our goal!

kickstarter Campaign from Alexander Zorn on Vimeo.

About Alexander Bhlou Zorn:

Alexander Zorn is an American writer and director from the Midwest. A Telecommunications Major with a focus in Design and Production at Indiana University, film has been a life long commitment. His latest short, "Opal," has been an official selection of two prominent local film festivals.

Alexander aspires to become a director and or creator of original and unique content that inspires and informs others. As a member of the LGBTQ community, he hopes to spread information and awareness to gay causes and is an advocate for safe sex education and practices. To learn more check out ZornoGraphics.com!

Indiana Church to Close After Mistreatment of Gay Choir Director & Mass Exodus of Members

One of the things we're constantly harping on here is the fact that most people who denigrate and harm other people using religious belief as justification aren't true representations of those particular religions. Millions of good, decent Christians and Muslims exist globally, but the ones who make the most (negative) noise ruin the bushel, so to speak. We regularly call on real, honest-to-goodness Christians to call out their wolf-in-sheep's-clothing Christian counterparts for acting outside their religion's overarching message when they use Biblical teachings to harm or discriminate against others.
It appears as if people are finally getting that message.
At the First United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Indiana, choir director Adam Fraley served his church faithfully for six years. Recently the church instituted a new pastor that intentionally and significantly increased Fraley's workload to the point he couldn't maintain his position, forcing him to resign.
“The pastor that’s currently at the church, doesn’t want to work, or doesn’t feel like he can work with somebody, that is like me,” Fraley told local media earlier this year. “I do wonder, if the fact that I am gay, had something to do with the amount of workload I was given, because I did resign from the position."
After Fraley was forced out of his position in early 2014, church members in disagreement began speaking out in support of the beloved choir director asking for his reinstatement. They went so far as to protest outside their own church in June.
At the time, local and national news reports indicated that the church lost up to 80% of its membership over the issue.
Though the church denied the allegation, the writing appeared to be on the wall for anyone actually paying attention to the situation in Alexandria. Disputing the claim, Rev. Dan Gangler, director of communication for the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church issued a statement in June denying the church was struggling stating:
The Rev. Michelle Cobb, superintendent of the North Central District and supervisor of the pastors of the church in this area including the Alexandria church, reports that the church continues to move forward with about the same average worship attendance and with the support for their current pastor. Both she and her associate district superintendent are working with the congregation to bring reconciliation.
Apparently, the people have spoken. Reports emerging from Alexandria this week indicate that due to the massive loss of attending members and financial problems, the church will be closing its doors permanently at the end of the year.
Despite the resounding message his members shouted through their actions, pastor David Mantor remains obstinate to the very end. According to the Herald Bulletin:
United Methodist Church doctrine states gays are welcome but cannot serve in positions of leadership, including music director. Although the controversy led to a reduction in size of the congregation, Mantor said that is not the reason for the church shutting down. 
"This closure is not due to that situation whatsoever," Mantor said. 
Though he (like many other anti-gay individuals hiding behind the cloak of religious belief) refused to listen to the actual tenets of his religion and the followers thereof, Mantor (and his church) should serve as a shining example of what Christians should do when faced with discrimination and hate among their fellow believers.
Christianity is not and should not be synonymous with being anti-gay no more than it should be associated with supporting slavery or Jim Crow discrimination. Both practices are abhorrent yet supportable when specific verses are cherry-picked from the Bible.
Does that mean the Bible supports slavery, segregation and harsh treatment of LGBT people? Of course not; rather, verses typically cited to support these causes are either poorly translated, taken out of context or otherwise as culturally irrelevant as stoning women for having sex before marriage.
And it's about time actual Christians began standing up for their beliefs rather than allowing a few bad apples to ruin it for the rest.

About Tim Peacock:

For virtually his entire life, Tim has been writing. Over the years he's dabbled in mainstream fiction, science fiction, dystopian fiction, and personal essays. The one consistent thread through his entire writing career has been blogging - he's been doing it since 1997 in one form or another. In addition to writing Tim has frequently worked and volunteered as a civil rights advocate including on campus LGBT advocacy as well as interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division.

You can find Tim online at his personal website. He additionally guest contributes at Blue Nation Review. You can find him on LinkedIn as well as on Twitter as @timsimms