Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Christchurch mosque shootings’

I was hoping this week to write about something more uplifting, but understandably, the horrific mosque shootings are top of mind in New Zealand over the last ten days or so. Last week I wrote about my initial response, and now I want to mention the responses of others.

There have been positive responses, not least from our Prime Minister, ranging from national actions to simple small acts of kindness. I’ll list just a few:

  • Love is the message, not violence or retaliation. In a strange way, because the emphasis has been on love, I felt free to vent my own anger (here, last week). I could see too that Jacinda (our Prime Minister) was angry, but was focusing that anger through love and compassion to the victims and their families. Whereas when leaders come out promising retribution and violence, I always feel compelled to modify that and plead for calm.
  • On Friday, marking one week from the first shooting, the Muslim call to prayer was broadcast nationally, followed by a two-minute silence to remember the 50 people who were killed in the shootings.
  • As the mosque where most of the shootings occurred was not open, their regular Friday prayers became part of a public ceremony in Hagley Park, attended by approximately 20,000 people, members of all political parties, and the Prime Minister.
  • The Imam said, “New Zealand has shown the world how to love and be caring.” He thanked the PM “for honouring us with a simple scarf.”
  • Women throughout New Zealand on Friday wore headscarves, the hijab, in an effort to show solidarity, and to help Muslim women feel safer in public. Policewomen who were guarding the mosque wore the scarf and a rose whilst carrying a semi-automatic rifle. I was far more uncomfortable about the rifle (our police are not normally armed) than I was about the headscarf.  A young Muslim woman wrote that she did not support non-Muslims wearing the hijab, and saw it as tokenism, a gesture designed to make non-Muslim New Zealand women feel better. That is undoubtedly a legitimate point of view. But other Muslim women commented that they felt safe and embraced by all New Zealanders when they could see so many other women wearing the hijab.
  • Non-Muslims formed human chains of protection around mosques in other centres for their own Friday prayers.
  • Military-style semiautomatic weapons were banned, with the support of the major political parties.
  • Catholic churches tolled bells throughout the nation – 50 times, one for each of the victims.
  • Flowers and offerings of support expressed to mosques all over the country.
  • Haka after haka was performed* to express manaakitanga (respect, kindness, caring for others)
  • Schools (including Charlie’s) forming heart shapes and/or the words Kia Kaha (stay strong, in Maori) and sending the photographs out to send love to those affected
  • Sales of T-shirts (printed by Good Bitches Baking but sadly sold out by the time I went to buy one) exhorting us to Be Kind have raised tens of thousands of dollars for the victims’ families.
  • Internationally, the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa lit up with a photograph of Jacinda Ardern’s face as she hugged a Muslim woman, under the word Peace in Arabic and English.

These are just a few.

However, there is a danger that we become too self-congratulatory at the compassion shown towards our Muslim brothers and sisters who have endured such an attack, as pointed out by the young Muslim woman I mentioned above. We are in danger of being too proud of our Prime Minister. The focus instead should be on the victims, the families, the wider community, and what we can do to help. The focus should be on racism. New Zealand is not perfect. Not now, and not in the past. Name a country that is.

And there are critics. Despite the fact that the terrorist did not grow up here, I guess we are all thinking, “but he could have.” And so academics have been speaking out on racism. Eager for validation, they point out the obvious (to me, at least) – that there is, and always has been, racism in our country. Muslims and other races have reminded us that they experience day-to-day racism, small slights, or intimidating harassment from time to time. Some Muslims here have never encountered it, but others apparently have.  And so an important national conversation is being revisited, but this time with the recognition of the violence these views can bring. It’s a good time for the conversation. Now is, after all, the time that we are most likely to listen to this message, to agree that racism and discrimination is unacceptable, and to resolve to do something about it. Now is when we have to decide to stop being “polite” and to call out the racists, call out the casual and even unconscious racism or bigotry that exists here, as anywhere.

There are other critics of the gestures made by the government and by New Zealanders. Gun owners (but far from all of them) complain about tighter controls, and fundamentalist Christians have spoken out about the country reaching out to Muslims, though their views have been largely derided. Personally, I have been surprised by two or three representatives of these groups who appear on my social media feed. People I generally want to keep in touch with, but who are essentially a piece of my past. I don’t want to offend anyone, and I certainly don’t want to be drawn into a social media battle. But my silence makes me complicit. So this week, I’m going to stand up for what I believe in, and call a couple of people out. Because if we want to be “seen as the good guys”** then we need to act like good guys.

“It’s not who we are” has been a catchphrase from Jacinda’s earliest speech after the horror. But it was, perhaps, who we were once. We are not proud of our colonial history, after all. It might still be who some, perhaps many, people are. Though as a nation, we have made huge strides. And it is certainly not who New Zealand wants to be today. And so, whilst we know we’re not always the good guys, maybe, just maybe, for a week or ten days, we have been the good guys. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll all put more effort into being the good guys in the future.

 

A beautiful pink rose with tears of dew

Have a rose for peace, with tears of dew

* not danced. NEVER danced.

** Ta-Nehisi Coates gave me this phrase in a similar context as I listened to his audiobook on my walk a few days ago.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Usually, New Zealanders get irritated when we are ignored. It is common when overseas to have to explain to people where our country is in the world. And for goodness sake, New Zealand is often even dropped off world maps. But this week, we’d far prefer to revert to our more familiar incognito status.

The common theme in the media here is shock. It’s the first word almost anyone uses. I’m not so surprised, though, that this happened somewhere in the world, given events in recent years. Given international travel, social media, media agencies that irresponsibly support extremist attitudes, changing rhetoric, and right-wing moves, there is nowhere now that is truly immune from that. Not even here. But with a progressive government, and a diverse and accepting society, until now we have always felt safe in New Zealand. (Well, except for natural disasters.)

For me though, I almost instantly reacted with anger. Anger that Christchurch, such a beautiful city, a city where I lived for five years during my university years, where I met my husband, and where I visited just a few weeks ago, should go through another major trauma when it is still recovering for the devastating earthquakes only eight years ago.

I was and am angry that a person or small group of people could be so cold and calculated. Anger that they could betray our country, betray our promise to those who were targeted that they would be safe and accepted here.

I was angry at the NRA (which extends its influence beyond just the US) and other weapons peddlers. There is a gun shop – the first I can ever remember seeing in our city – that opened about ten minutes away a few years ago. Almost every time I have driven past it I have resented its existence. It has never seemed to fit this city, this country. But on Friday afternoon and over the weekend, I felt overwhelming anger at it, its owners and staff.

And then, as we learned the shooter was Australian, there was even more anger at him. Anger that he would bring his toxic hate to our country, harm our citizens, ruin our reputation. And anger at their government’s policies over decades (centuries really), at their recent treatment of Muslim refugees, and the outrageous rhetoric of other politicians there that have legitimised this hate. And I’ve been angry at some of the people I know there who have supported some of these policies, and some of these attitudes.

And then we learned of his “manifesto” of hate, and of his admiration of Trump’s approval of white supremacist movements, and my anger surged anew. Anger at the language the US President used only hours later that echoed those of the shooter. Anger at those who apologise for Trump, but still support him and the racism he incites. Anger at those who may not apologise for him, but still support him openly whilst decrying any responsibility for the acceptance of this hate. Anger at those hypocrites who expressed their sadness in the media or online, and those who had the gall to accept condolences, whilst refusing to denounce his comments, his white supremacist supporters and his policies. Their silence, their hypocrisy, makes them complicit. And so I am angry at them too.

Social media is flooded with images, new profile overlays declaring love, strength, and echoing our Prime Minister’s words that “They are Us.” People share drawings of kiwis crying. I haven’t used any of these. It’s not really my style. And whilst I have appreciated my overseas friends who have done so to show solidarity, or who have sent messages, these actions don’t feel significant enough for me to encompass the depth of my feelings. They don’t express my disgust, my grief, my anger. And so I have abstained.

I don’t usually write posts such as this either. But I feel now, more strongly than I ever have, that silence is inappropriate, it is acceptance, it is collusion, it is complicit. So if you’re reading this, and you recognise yourself in my earlier paragraphs, know that I see through you too.

And if you have been one of those who sends love and support and is equally horrified and angry, know that we are strong, we are decent, and we are full of love. That’s what we have seen throughout New Zealand, and – mostly – around the world, since Friday’s events. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of the way we have responded. I am proud that this has not been politicised here. I’m proud of our Prime Minister, who has been articulate and compassionate and decisive. And as my anger abates, exhausted, I am deeply saddened that it has been necessary.

 

 

Read Full Post »