I grew up in Brisbane, not an hour’s drive from the fish-and-chip shop made famous by Pauline Hanson. I haven’t lived in Queensland since a week after my 18th birthday, but it’s still a huge part of me.
There are lots of things I love about my home state. I love that shoes are optional when you have to go to the shops. I love how much we enjoy eating pineapple in savoury settings. I love winning the State of Origin pretty much every year (this year we won the series on my birthday, so thanks Queensland).
But I don’t love Pauline Hanson. To me, she is the worst of our fears and idiosyncrasies and bravado and bluster all rolled into one.
She is a person who can in one breath talk about the Australian way of life, and then in the next completely ignore the fundamental idea of religious tolerance upon which our society and institutions are built.
Watch Pauline Hanson discuss Islam in her press conference. Post continues after video.
At a press conference earlier today, Hanson got very cranky. She objected to reporters asking questions about her policies and said: “You’re standing here having a go at me because I stand up for my culture, my way of life and my country.”
Here’s the thing though, Australian culture is so much more than Australian flags at school assemblies, and fear. Every time Hanson spouts a new piece of nonsense, she does two things.
She gives voice to fear, and she encourages division and hate.
We cannot dismiss the people who voted One Nation as ignorant or bigoted. What they are is afraid. Fear and insecurity breed the kind of hatred we’ve heard from Hanson in the last few days.
“When I was growing up,” she said today, “everyone had a job”.
Pauline Hanson is 62. She was born in 1954. Australia only began collecting employment data in 1966, when the unemployment rate was a very low two per cent.
It was higher among women and young people, but yes it was very low. Since then, it has only grown. The Australian Bureau of Statistics says the increases are often brought about by economic crises, and the subsequent falls as the economy stabilises don’t match the initial jumps.
In other words, immigration is not the issue here.
Neither is Halal certification. On Saturday night Hanson rebuffed Senator Sam Dastyari's offer to share a Halal snack pack with an icy rebuke. She added that "98 per cent of Australians" want to see Halal certification banned.
Which is remarkable, considering Australia's Muslim population is 2.2 per cent, so even without any of us non-Muslim Australians being on board with Halal she's already wrong.
On Sunday a friend of mine posted on his Facebook page about how angry he was Hanson was back.
He talked about being a Chinese-Australian teen growing up in the late 1990s.
He talked about how he didn't want any children today to experience hate because of who they are and how they look.
He mentioned being spat on on the bus.
The problem with Hanson and the people who support her is their narrow view of what is "Australian" is not ambitious enough.
Australians are generous and kind and egalitarian. We're larrikins and hard workers. We value community and family.
I believe all that to be true. I even believe that Hanson and her supporters would believe it too. I think they probably believe that a vote for Hanson is a vote for those values.
— Pauline Hanson (@PaulineHansonOz) February 12, 2016
But it's not. Because the first and second generation Australians that carry with them the cultures and traditions of their family's homes share those values too.
They come to Australia because they seek peace, tolerance and opportunity. They believe in a fair go just as much as the next Australian.
Fear can only divide us if we let it. It can only triumph when we stop listening to each other or hearing the other side of the story.
Right now, fear is being stoked not just by those like Hanson who seek division for personal gain, but it is also encouraged by the tenor of the debate around people like her.
People are afraid of what they do not know and in an ideal world our leaders would ally those fears, not fuel them.
On Saturday night I grew sadder and sadder thinking about the forces unleashed in our society by voters in my home state. I felt ashamed to be a Queenslander for the first time in a long time. I did the eye-rolling, jokey, look-down-my-nose shtick at the pub the next day with friends.
But that's the wrong approach.
The Australians who voted for Hanson will not change their minds because we laugh at them or call them stupid. They will not relax and welcome the unknown because we berate them or disown them.
Pauline Hanson is wrong about Australia. She is wrong about Muslim Australians. She is wrong about so many things. But she is going to be in the Senate for the next six years.
So while I am angry that Hanson has been able to convince so many Queenslanders that the way to keep their way of life is to basically destroy the fundamental principles upon which is it built, I am willing to consider there must be a better way to fight back than to alienate those people.
I don't want another generation of Australian children to experience the hate my friend talked about. And I don't believe the people who voted for Pauline Hanson really want that either.
Instead, lets start a conversation about the rich, wonderful, diverse and generous community we all share. Because it's something to be proud of. And you don't beat hate with hate.