After days of non-stop rain, blue sky peeked out for a moment in Sydney. My partner and I grabbed the lead and took our dog for a much-needed walk in the park. But we hadn't gone two blocks down the road when to our shock we saw the front door of a long-time resident of our street covered with foul anti-Semitic graffiti.
"Fuck Jews," it read, "Heil Hitler". It featured three Nazi swastikas.
We were standing there in shock — even more so when we saw other people walking past without as much as batting an eyelid.
If we were shocked, imagine what the Jewish family living there felt.
This is just a small glimpse of the ugly price of the increasingly strident bipartisan racist scapegoating by politicians in the major parties. Imagine incidents like this multiplied thousands of times aimed at people of various non-Anglo backgrounds throughout the suburbs, in playgrounds and workplaces.
Foreign minister Bob Carr and new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd may casually stigmatise "economic migrants" in their speeches and press statements and imagine they are just having a civil debate. But the full consequence of those two words is far from civil out there in the street.
I know some people say we can't call Carr and Rudd racist. After all, they've both got Asian members of their family. Kevin even speaks Mandarin, for god's sake. But their families have got bodyguards, drivers in Commonwealth cars to ferry them safely about, secure homes in secure suburbs, and are not likely to face the racist insults that others face on every day.
With the release of the latest opinion polls showing a swing back to Labor, progressive people all around the country are now breathing a sigh of relief that Tony Abbott's Coalition are no longer looking at a landslide victory.
I know about lesser evils and greater evils. This was clear when I watched the Coalition’s "US-style" campaign rally on TV on June 29, where both former prime minister John Howard and Abbott whipped up an ugly atmosphere when they spoke about "turning back the boats".
So, is the price we have to pay to keep Abbott at bay a further shift to the right by Labor on its already racist and grossly inhumane refugee policy? And with that, are we to accept as collateral damage the predictable Coalition response of shifting their policy even further to the right?
The lies promoted by the Liberal and Labor parties dupe some progressive people into going along with them. A Greens member I know suggested his party should "smash the people-smuggler rings" in Indonesia to prevent people from getting on leaky boats.
People who buy this lie that it is about people smugglers should stop and think. Imagine proposing such a joint task force against people smugglers to the government of a country bordering Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II.
There is another way, but the ugly surprise my partner and I had while taking the dog for a walk today leaves me with no confidence that we can expect any better from the new Rudd Labor government. However, I'd be happy to be proven wrong.