If there’s one thing that distinguishes America and Australia, it’s the chocolate. Australian chocolate is absolutely superior to that Hershey trash that people in the United States claim is ‘chocolate.’ I was recently in Australia visiting family over the winter break, and I was fortunately able to bring back some of this rich, divine ambrosia. But chocolate is one of the few things that distinguishes America and Australia nowadays—in fact, these countries have never been as culturally similar as they are presently. In the case of politics, the similarities are both uncanny and distressing.

The story of America’s creation is founded on racism. When British colonists sailed the ocean blue and landed in North America, they set up shop by violently displacing Native Americans and subjugating them to colonial rule. In order to compound their power and dominance, colonial governments instilled an irrational hatred and fear of these native peoples in the colonists, who, despite having different colored skin to the colonists, were humans all the same.

The story of Australia’s creation is much the same. In 1788, British colonists landed in Botany Bay, albeit with many prisoners as well as colonists, and found native people already on the land. Like in America, the British fight for control of the land was brutal and bloody, and a similar irrational hatred, fear, and disregard for the well-being of the Aboriginals, as they are known, was instilled. In both America and Australia, this racism has permeated into modern culture and politics.

On one of my most recent trips to Australia, my sister was told by a stranger, “Watch out, those two boys over there look like they might take your bag.” Although the two Aboriginal kids were merely minding their own business, the color of their skin caused the stranger, who didn’t personally know either of them, to assume that they were criminals, or at least were ill-intentioned. This negative bias towards people of color in Australia has been the basis for much political discussion.

In America, Donald Trump and his politics of racism and xenophobia have risen to the White House. In Australia, the One Nation Party has also become relevant, although fortunately not to the degree of Trump, capturing three seats in the Australian Senate in the most recent election (2016). One Nation espouses the same racist and xenophobic rhetoric that Trump has been so successful with in the United States, arguing for policies like drastically reduced immigration, a ban on the teaching of Islam, and a ban on the building of mosques. Specifically, the immigration concerns stem an influx of asylum seekers in recent years.

Donald Trump’s executive order to prevent refugees from entering the United States is horrifying, but Australians have been seeing similar policies in place for years. These policies are not even under a government led by the One Nation Party, but rather under the government of the run-of-the-mill conservative party, known as the Liberal Party of Australia (akin to the GOP in America). In August 2015, The Guardian reported that in the past 18 months since the article was written, the Australian Navy had turned back 20 asylum seeking boats with a total of 633 asylum seekers. The important question to ask here is that perhaps these people were turned back for logistical reasons, rather than xenophobic ones. Yet, when former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a member of the Liberal Party, was running for election in 2013, one of his widely-used slogans was “stop the boats.” Surely a country similar in size to the United States but with 290 million less people can take in a few thousand refugees?

For both the United States and Australia, politicians have been able to take advantage of irrational and ultimately absurd fears and hatred of people with different skin tones in order to advance their own personal bigotry. In these people with such extreme beliefs, there is a basic insecurity regarding their own well-being. “What happens if a Muslim asylum seeker or refugee comes into my country,” they might ask. “Worst case scenario, they blow me up. Best case, they steal my job from me.” There is a profound ignorance in these people who choose to believe or are raised with racist and xenophobic beliefs and ideologies. They ignore the humanity that exists within everybody. Every single human on this Earth is a person with thoughts and feelings, and when the politicians who run our governments decide to prevent asylum seekers from finding a safe haven based on their skin color, they are reducing these asylum seekers to less than human.

Australia and the United States are not the only countries with racist and xenophobic politicians, but they are at the forefront of a tide right-wing nationalism that is sweeping across the globe, and even reaching Europe, with Marine Le Pen and her National Front in France. I do not think there is a magic or easy solution to all this hate that is finding ears throughout the world, but I do think that we can each give our best attempt to recognize that ultimately, we are all inherently flawed beings. I can only hope that you, individually, are someone who attempts to spread love and happiness rather than hate and hostility. Without this empathy, that Australian chocolate just doesn’t have that same rich taste.

Chester is a member of the Class of 2020

  • Man with Axe

    Just curious: Are Muslims, the people we Americans are so irrationally fearful of, accepting of people who are different from them, such as Jews and Christians? Are they accepting of the equal rights of women? Of gays? Of transgender people?

    Or is it only Americans who are fearful?

    And those fearful Americans: Have Muslims done anything to make Americans fearful? Or is their fear completely irrational?

    • Ralphiec88

      The Muslims in the US that I know are indeed accepting of people of other faiths, equal rights, etc. And some non-Muslims that I know are decidedly not accepting of Jews, Muslims, and gays. Any religion can be twisted by propagandists to drive evil acts by the weak minded.
      “Have Muslims done anything to make Americans fearful” is a loaded question. You could easily substitute “blacks”, “Irish”, “Arabs”, “Communists”, “Catholics”, “Prods”, and any number of other labels for “Muslims” in that question, and find that at some time or another in this century people have, all for very similar reasons.

      • Man with Axe

        “The Muslims in the US that I know…” That formulation willfully excludes the formal laws of virtually every majority Muslim nation. Look at Saudi Arabia, for example. How many Jews? Are Christian churches welcome? Are women equal to men? How are gays treated? Let’s not ignore how the billion or so Muslim people treat non-Muslims, women, and gays, and focus on the few that you know.

        Of the previous 1,000 terrorist attacks in the world, how many were carried out by Muslims, and how many by “blacks”, “Irish”, “Arabs”, “Communists”, “Catholics”, “Prods” (What is a prod?)

        I’ll answer my own question thusly: virtually all by Muslims, and a negligible handful by people who were not Muslim. The fact that every once in a while a nutcase like Dylann Roof commits a terror attack does not reduce the danger posed by Muslims one whit.

      • Ralphiec88

        The point is that you want to tar all of Islam with the same brush, and I’m telling you that doing so insults your neighbors, defies obvious other factors, and takes a highly selective view of history. Many of the nations you cite are hideously repressive of people of all faiths. “How many of the last thousand terrorist attacks…”? is cherry picking recent events. I don’t know, but I was around for the Troubles in Ireland and Muslims looked positively accommodating compared to the Catholic and Protestant thugs at the time. Even today there have been horrific attacks on Muslims also. Then as now, the vast majority of the population was trying to live their lives and not get killed. Finally one need only look at the Buddhas of Bamiyan which stood untouched from the 4th century until their destruction by the Taliban in 2001 to realize that what some today claim to be Islam is a fairly modern cancer on a centuries-old body.

  • Arafat

    This article is why the democratic party is in decline. Yes, this party has lost more than 1,000 seats at the state and federal level during Obama’s tenure and if that is not a precipitous decline than I do not know what is.

    The democratic party has become a party disassociated with reality. Chester tells us we are xenophobic or Islamophobic for fearing Muslims when, in fact, we are simply realists. Islam is a base and repressive religion and the proof is in the pudding. Every single Islamic country represses individual rights, practices some degree of misogyny, Jew hatred, gay hatred and violence. But this reality does not damper the democrat’s fantasy notion about Islam.

    So keep it up, Chester, Your parties pronounced shift towards ever increasing liberalism will result in its increasing irrelevancy. Keep it up. I’d rather our country is run by someone who actually lives in the real world.

    • shan sam

      Your against Liberty? What is it your after?

      • Arafat

        I am for liberty and it is why I am against Islam. If one observes every single Islamic country one finds little liberty. Is that all that difficult to observe?
        Islam is all about submission; submission to a repressive (anti-liberty) religious ideology. An ideology that abhors all individual freedoms. Do you disagree?

  • DavidL

    In Africa they slaughter people from different tribes. The Japanese took all of the Pacific rim to war because they considered themselves a superior race. The Chinese discriminate against whites and non white minorities within their borders. Arabs fight and kill based on national, tribal and sectarian divisions within their muslim religion. The Incas and Aztecs cannibalized each other before they were wiped out by the Spaniards. Native American tribes warred against each other and many were skilled practitioners of torture. Germans nearly extinguished the Jews in Europe. Russian communist leaders killed millions in political purges, as did the Chinese communists. Turks inflicted genocide on the Armenians. Zulu killed the people of their defeated rival tribes by the millions. Black Haitian rebels killed nearly every white on the island after they took power. The Arab-British-American-Portugese slave trade killed millions as a by product of their traffic in humans.

    This is a small sample. The list goes on and on, with countless groups as perpetrators and millions upon millions of victims. The killers and the victims come from all kinds of humans, and these evils have been committed by people of every race. It is a human frailty of spectacular proportions.

    I can not speak for Australia, but I am confident that the United States will continue to accept refugees from all over the world. Among those refugees are some who would do us (and than means you and me) harm if they could. I think Trump’s belief that we will be able to tell which of the persons entering our country wishes us harm overestimates our capacity to make these distinctions, but a three month pause is hardly a complete reversal of our country’s admirable record over time of openness to others. I doubt Trump will change that. FDR, counted by many as among our greatest presidents, engineered the move of Japanese-American citizens and legal Japanese residents to concentration camps, and he also refused to take action to allow more Jewish refugees to come to America when there was still time for them to flee. These were terrible errors of far greater moral vacuity and human consequence than anything Trump is proposing. Your outrage is premature and in the long run likely misplaced.