Why Adam Goodes Needs God. Racism, Fame and Objectification.
Adam plays AFL for the Sydney Swans. Recently he has been copping a lot of booing from the fans of opposing teams. I’ve been following this on Facebook and Twitter a little and from what I can see, the media are screaming that the boos come from hard core racist Aussies, but at the same time virtually all the comments I see under those articles are saying that he is being booed for his poor sportsmanship, faking to get fouls, committing slide tackles and acting aggressively toward the opposing fans.
For me, booing is bad form. I would never boo anybody, though if put in a situation where I was in the crowd and a series of bad ref decisions meant the Cowboys were again denied their rightful premiership, I would definitely find my inner boo. From what I can see, AFL is a melodrama. The heroes are cheered and the villains are booed. Usually the umpire is the villain, but when a player does something that is clearly wrong, they are also the target of the crowd’s frustration. I guess giving a boo is better than rioting like the European football stadiums do. Those Europeans are so passionate.
Whether this issue is to do with racism is debatable. Some say that there are 71 indigenous AFL stars and 70 are not booed. Others counter that none of the others are known for taking a stand against racism. The ‘stand’ that some of them are referring to was a situation where a young girl was calling him an ape from the crowd and he had her thrown from the stadium.
I remember well through my time in Central Java being called a gorilla (they use the same word as in English), an ape (kera) as well as another word (londo or something like that, which means Dutch invader) by people in the street who didn’t know me and who had never seen me before. In the area where I was, they certainly wouldn’t have seen many white, overweight, hairy men before, so they made assumptions about who I was and why I was there. The culture of that area was strongly Javanese Muslim and hosted the headquarters of the terror group, Jemaah Islamiyah. I thought being called such names was funny and understandable, but I can understand that being treated like this by strangers continually would get pretty old pretty fast. These people weren’t seeing me, they were seeing what I symbolised.
One clear issue is how we objectify our public figures. It can often be that we don’t so much see celebrities as real people with feelings and a mother. We don’t think of them lying in bed not able to sleep because of stuff that happened that day. We may not even think about the fact that they have a soul which needs saving. We look at politicians like Pauline Hansen, Clive Palmer and Bob Katter and boo them or cheer them according to whether we see them as a hero or a villain, but we tend not to think of them as a real person that brushes their teeth and has to clip their nose hair. Instead, we see them as an object that symbolises an idea. We think that we are entitled to hurl as much rage at that symbol as we like. If they react, they are a sook.
Sure, on many counts Adam Goodes is an idiot who does dumb things. So am I. And you probably are too. We are all susceptible to the weaknesses of humanity. On the other hand, Goodes is also wealthy and successful with a swag of significant awards. He’s done very well out of what he does. And yet the crowd boos Goodes. Is it because he is a symbol? If so, the question is what is he a symbol of – Poor sportsmanship? Self-absorption? The Aboriginal race? During his time as Australian of the Year, he said and did some foolish and very divisive things. My guess is that this was born out of frustration with the racism he has witnessed through his life. In some ways that’s fair enough, but if he was a wise person, he would have worked more toward building a theme of unity as Australians, while always valuing the Aboriginal heritage of the nation. It’s an easy mistake to make I suppose. After all, he’s a football player, not an Oxford scholar of politics and philosophy. Many suggest that there were a lot of people, including indigenous people, who were far more deserving of such a prestigious award. That’s certainly a no-brainer, but what has happened has happened and the past can’t be changed now: But the future can be.
The Aboriginal people that I’m friends with don’t see themselves as victims while wallowing in self-pity, shame and regret. They have accepted Christ as their Saviour and they walk in victory and strength, knowing who they are in Christ. They are some of the most beautiful and well-adjusted people that I know. Sure they are disgusted by the shameful aspects of Australian history where the horror of genocide was attempted by some but certainly oppression of our indigenous brothers and sisters was the cultural norm. I am too am appalled by this as I’m sure all my readers are. It’s fact and we acknowledge it and are horrified by it. And many of those friends are quick to call out racism when they see it, as am I.
Many indigenous folk today carry the burden of the bullying and even racial vilification that they grew up with. This is a serious issue, just as the bullying and non-racial vilification and abuse that many of us grew up with is a serious issue. But here is the crux of the matter. Is it a serious issue that will continue to shape and control our nation for centuries to come, or will we find healing and move on together in love, forgiveness and acceptance? I would offer that the latter is a more constructive way forward. I would also suggest that we are already seeing that in large numbers within the Aboriginal people and we will see more and more of this as we see more and more people turning their heart over to God. Maybe it’s time to stop beating ourselves up for aspects of Australia’s history that were abhorrent. Maybe it’s time instead to really focus on changing our culture together to usher in a culture that reflects the Kingdom of God. No future could be brighter.
James McPherson put the AFL incident this way: “Take one foolish kid. Add one over-reacting adult. Throw in a rude crowd and stir in some self-righteous media. Now unscramble this!”
I challenge you to choose an influential celebrity and pray with care and love every day for their salvation. They need it just as much as we do.
Ever changing; Thy Kingdom come