I do not think I have a gardening post in me this weekend. Ours is a country in shock but none more so than our Muslim communities and the people of Christchurch. How could this happen in New Zealand? But happen it did and the soul searching going on now reveals that it should not, perhaps, have come as such a shock. The signs were there but nobody took much notice of them. Nobody, that is, except the Muslim communities and other marginalised groups and individuals who face the rising tide of hate in their everyday lives, even in our peaceful land of the long white cloud.
Sometimes I feel the ghost of my mother at my shoulder. She died nearly 20 years ago but I recall her talking of living in London in the lead-up to WW2 and how she and my father were horrified to witness the rising tide of fascism and the inevitability of major war, even as others around them ignored all the signs. It was perhaps more clear-cut then, with those fascist energies predominantly concentrated and unified in the Nazis. But as I watch the rise and rise and the alt-right, the defence of hate speech (“But… free speech!”), Islamophobia, the extreme ugliness in many quarters enabled by social media, the political dog whistling at such people as potential voters and other political games and strategies that have merely served to strengthen and affirm such outlier views – yes, I feel my mother at my shoulder. Pandora’s box has been opened again and hatred, ignorance and blind prejudice have been unleashed, nowhere more so yesterday than in the Christchurch mosques.
It is not enough to say that this is the not the country we want. In the coming days, weeks, months and years, as the initial shock and horror fades, we must all hold the line that has now been drawn between those motivated by ugliness, hatred, fear and prejudice and those of us who want a kinder, more caring and tolerant world. I stand with our Prime Minister who epitomises kindness and compassion every day, but especially so in the last 24 hours.
It may seem trite, but if people who feel moved to leave flowers in remembrance around the country could remove the plastic wrappings and ribbons on such bouquets, it would mean their flowers could wither and return to the soil rather than having to be picked up and taken to landfill. I remember the tributes to Princess Diana – a sea of plastic and cellophane wrapped flowers and I am now seeing photos of similar floral tributes around our country. Just leave flowers in such situations, without the wrapping accoutrements. Please.