Baracking for Obama in Bali
Flights and accommodation for a writing trip to
Hawaii are on the verge of being booked when I make a chance discovery. Barack
Obama my unrequited love, wrote Dreams of
my Father in Sanur, Bali. Coincidentally my best friends moved there six
Michelle Obama divulges this in her memoir Becoming Michelle, and I jump to the conclusion
that divine breadcrumbs are leading me to Bali for my writing odyssey.
my friends and book my flights. The book I intend writing will begin
I underestimated the former First Lady. Michelle’s life story reveals her as a person of immense fortitude, determination and keen intellect. She’s smart, fun, very likeable and successful in public and private life.
There is no way now or at any time in the future that Barack will leave Michelle for me.
This is sad because our connection would be immense. Our belief system and values are aligned so seamlessly that compatibility would never be an issue. And we’ve definitely got chemistry. Big time.
If Barack were ever free to meet I think my feverish excitement would feed his fervour.
I’m talking ideas. We will rant about cultivating change by drawing the link between inequality, disrespect and the path to violence. We’ll explore how the pressure to conform to stereotypes is one of the root causes of both racism and sexism. We will agree that shifting norms can change behaviour.
We’ll vigorously test our ideas on the causes of race and gendered violence and the factors like poverty, drugs and alcohol that contribute to them.
And when we’re done we’ll discuss how to mount a global movement of interveners to challenge discrimination and sexist behaviour across the spectrum.
I, like many women, experienced sexual harassment since before I hit puberty. One in five women in Australia have been sexually assaulted or threatened. One in six have been physically or sexually violated by a current or former partner.
Violence against men happens
in public. Violence against women happens in private.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report that $22 billion was the estimated cost of violence against women and children in 2015-16 and was the leading cause of homelessness. Australia has a population of 24 million.
The cost in the US is
potentially ten times this amount and more.
Intimate partner violence is the greatest health risk factor for women aged 25-44 in Australia and my Indigenous sisters are 35 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence related assaults.
Barack and I will confer on the interconnectedness of sexism and racism and we will communicate our personal experience of both privilege and pain.
I understand how white privilege benefits me when I break my cell phone while on a short stay on Nusa Penida, a small island off the Bali coast. I’m alone and stranded without internet and unable to contact anyone about my whereabouts and current predicament.
The low key accommodation where I am staying is unable to process my credit card and I don’t have enough cash to pay my bill.
I have some cash but not enough to cover accommodation, food and drink, or to take any tours. I’m concerned but I’m not scared or overly worried. I don’t fear being thrown out in the street and I’m not planning on going hungry or thirsty for the next two nights. I have faith that my white privilege will allow me to work it out.
I order dinner, another margarita and put pen to paper once more.
I’ve never had to sleep rough and if I collapsed on the street I’m fairly sure someone would come to my aid. Not like the Aboriginal elder, a professor from the university where I worked, who was ignored and walked past when she had a heart attack at a campus bus stop. Fortunately international students, without a racist bias towards Australian Aboriginal people, saw her lying there and phoned an ambulance.
woman and black is a double whammy. If you’re also poor then you’re the triple
The next time my credit card is tried it works. I don’t have to use the resort phone to call someone to bring funds and rescue me. I swim and delight in the crystal waters of the bay, casting aside my writing that is behind schedule. From Risk to Respect – a Road Well Travelled is my working title, but I’m going slower along that road than a Bali Bemo in peak hour traffic.
Later lying on the sunbed I wonder if Barack Obama ever procrastinated like this. If only he were here to nudge me into action.
Jo Merley is a writer, trainer and coordinator of social justice programs. She is the founding director of Intervene Australia and currently trains program participants to be leaders in intervention strategies to prevent sexual harassment and violence against girls, women, non-binary and the boys and men who sit outside of traditional male norms.
She currently resides in Northern New South Wales and travels for work and leisure.