I feel sick. Our entire city feels sick. Our whole country feels sick. Sick for those who have been murdered, sick for their families and friends, and sick that we and our city have been defiled in this way.
Fifty people (to date) were massacred on Friday 15th March in my home of Christchurch/Otautahi, New Zealand/Aotearoa. More than forty are injured, and have required hospitalisation. Their only crime was that they were going about their lives, and minding their own business. But that business happened to be in mosques, which was considered unacceptable by their murderer.
The murderer chose our city to carry out this atrocity, because we were one of the least likely places that it would be expected to happen in. The way it was executed was a deliberate publicity stunt by an extreme right-winger with extreme delusions of superiority. It was carefully and hatefully planned for maximum media effect. The perpetrator live-streamed his atrocities. The video has since been taken offline as much as possible, but I will put money on it that it still lurks somewhere.
If you find it, don’t watch it. We simply have to be better people than that. And giving this murderer his fifteen minutes of infamy is just giving him what he wants.
We are still coming to grips with what has happened here in Christchurch. How does this much hatred fester in a person to the extent of massacring fifty unarmed people, who have no way of defending themselves. But the truth is that hate, intolerance, and blame towards others are easy. They are the easy traits to cultivate, when things aren’t going so well with us. Love, tolerance, and self-reflection are much harder, and give far fewer feelings of instant gratification. Those traits take more work to cultivate, and more personal honesty. Toxic ideologists seem to prefer the easy way.
We aren’t perfect here in New Zealand. We have our differences, like anywhere else in the world. We squabble and bicker and hurt each other. We don’t live in an unspoiled utopia. But there is still a gentleness to this land which permeates our culture, in spite of the inevitable life-mess that humans carry with them. Perhaps our small population and geographical isolation have helped with this, but it also made us a ‘soft’ target for this monstrous act.
This act of mass murder has jolted us into a new paradigm by someone who is nothing and no-one, but feels entitled to be, so finds a group to blame for his inadequacies. We Kiwis won’t get back what we had. The family and friends of those who were murdered won’t get back what they had.
Once again, we’re hearing the words ‘Kia Kaha’, but for the whole of New Zealand this time – rather than just for Christchurch, as in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquakes – and especially for our Muslim community.
Yet, maybe we can end up being better than we were before. Maybe this will draw us all closer, and we will defy the legacy the monster was trying to leave with us.
Let’s do it.