New Zealand in shock

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.

13 thoughts on “New Zealand in shock

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      No,I don’t think it is is just ignorance. I think a lack of empathy, an inability to see humanity tipping over sometimes to what is simply evil.

  1. Elizabeth Hamilton

    Very well expressed even down to leaving the plastic wrapping off the flowers.
    I love your skeleton leaf too. I occasionally have some myself.

  2. bittster

    I’m so sorry for for your country and that the people of Christchurch have to go through another tragedy so fresh from the last. Maybe you can do better on the path forward than we in the US. We could use a good example.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      It is particularly hard on the people of Christchurch, a city which already had a high incidence of PTSD and mental health issues after the prolonged earthquake experiences. Though even harder on all practising Muslims in this country and elsewhere. At least we have a Prime Minister who shines like a beacon of light in this and who has already declared there WILL be change to our gun laws. The gun lobby (which I did not even realise we had in this country) is already protesting but I do not think the country is in a mood to give them any leeway. We will see a tightening on gun ownership, particularly with regard to banning semi-automatic weapons and probably registration of all firearms as well as tightened licensing of owners. Like Canada, we have a high incidence of gun ownership with a rural population, but most will be .22s, .303s and shotguns. Handguns are not permitted and gun crime is not common. We are also a country where our police do not carry guns in most circumstances and it is rare to see armed security. Australia carried out a massive firearms restructure and firearms amnesty following the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 and as far as I know, they have never had another mass shooting that wasn’t domestic in nature.

      1. bittster

        Amazing. Just a few days later and you have stricter gun controls, while here in the US it’s fought against as a freedom.
        In the meantime our schoolchildren are forced to practice active shooter drills.

      2. Abbie Jury Post author

        What is more, it is cross-party support with only a single dissenting voice. And in a country with very high gun ownership rates (high rural population) BUT we don’t allow hand guns at all except for police, nobody bears arms either openly or concealed except at the international air terminal (our police are not armed although they have access to arms if required) and gun crimes are very low. It is a VERY different attitude to the US. Gun ownership is a privilege, not a right, and what are mostly owned are .22 rifles or shotguns for the control of possums, rabbits, Canadian geese and ducks. So guns are tools for pest control mostly, never for self defence and not very often for crime. So the attempts by the NRA to interfere and influence our gun control measures are greeted with near universal derision, contempt and disbelief.

  3. Pat Webster

    Fear is a major factor in events like the horrific murders in Christchurch. Fear of being displaced, fear of someone who isn’t like you, fear of having to recognize that people who hold different religious beliefs have a right to exist. My heart goes out to you, Abbie, and to all New Zealanders experiencing this awful event.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      It is truly awful, Pat. It now comes down to how we harness that shock and grief to make our country more inclusive and tolerant – ‘kindness’ is how our PM characterises it. Even before the attack, in fact right from the start she has stood for a kinder, more caring nation than we have become in recent times.

  4. MarcP

    I just saw the ~10 mins long speech of your PM and was quite moved by her empathy and absolutely admirable approach to the situation. May Jacinda prevail and show rest of the world how not to make things worse! Several of her decisions (invoking the Arabic greeting, maori phrases, not mentioning the terrorist’s name, offering reimbursements for cremation/travel…etc) are really smart and a breath of fresh air!!

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      She is a pretty special person and leading from both the heart and the head in this crisis for our country. A person of extraordinary empathy and compassion. Though the use of Maori phrases is not at all unusual in NZ – it is probably what has now evolved into a unique NZ form of the English language. And paying for the burials (Muslims don’t cremate) and many ancillary costs is part of our universal, tax-payer funded Accident Compensation system in this country. But I have never felt prouder of a prime minister. And the refusal to give the terrorist his name is an extraordinarily powerful and symbolic action – I think the Norwegians may have done something similar with Breivik?

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