On Friday afternoon I was sitting at my desk at work, stressing about moving to the Wairarapa the next day and in with my boyfriends parents, when a colleague said “There’s been a shooting at a Mosque in Christchurch”.
As the afternoon wore on, the news got worse and worse. I felt horrified. At one stage I remember saying “Wow, I can’t believe 9 people have been killed”.
Today, the tally is 50.
There never felt like there would be a day like this in New Zealand. Like many of you, I was under the illusion no one could hurt us here. We were safe. We were too far away for anyone to care.
How wrong I was.
How wrong we all were.
Hate was here.
Racism was here.
We just sometimes can brush it away too easily.
We can laugh about it.
We can separate the people we know in our minds as different from other people.
In other cities…
in other countries…
from other religions or races…
I haven’t yet processed what this means.
Normally I wouldn’t write when I hadn’t fully processed it all.
But right now, it is too risky not to write and share our voices.
Silence can condone.
So I will say this.
That I am sad that now there is no safety blanket that remains.
That life in New Zealand will never be the same as before 15 March 2019.
That I can’t continue to write and not acknowledge that I blogged “Why I’ve changed my mind about Wellington” after the Manchester Attacks, thinking that this couldn’t happen here.
That were were safe…
That there wasn’t sick people who targeted the kind, and the vulnerable, to make some evil kind of statement.
That was their problem.
It was history.
It was not something which would happen here.
How wrong I was.
How naive I was.
How naive we all were.
Friday 15 March 2019 will be remembered as the day that you and I realised that the problems facing us are not restricted by nation boarder-lines, creed, race, or religion.
This is a global problem.
This isn’t limited to America.
This isn’t limited to Europe.
This isn’t limited to anything.
It is everywhere.
There is no nationhood.
There are only people.
There is no them and us.
Racism starts softly.
It’s in the tasteless joke someone tells that you laugh at but make you feel awkward.
It’s in the person who shrugs and says “Politics don’t affect me”.
It’s how we don’t respond to the fact Maori have a higher ratio of incarceration in New Zealand than African Americans have in the USA.
It’s the fact we decide not to think about the immigration questions that countries in Europe do because our population is small.
The world is a very different place today.
It isn’t the same as 20 years ago…
…and in 20 more years it will be even more different.
We cannot afford to do this. No more.
I am not embarrassed to say I was wrong. I didn’t see this coming. None of us did. We saw what we wanted to see. We were sleepy little New Zealand.
We are awake.
We need to do better to speak out against racism and people that profile ‘the other’.
Underneath, we are all the same. Christchurch could have been Auckland - it could have been Dunedin - it could have been Wellington.
I don’t engage in politics and global issues on The Residents often. But I do engage in people, every week.
I want to share people’s stories so that we can better understand what makes up our communities.
Communities are made up of people. Lots of people.
Some people I’ve unintentionally probably overlooked.
I will personally try and do better to make sure my space here online is non-exclusionary and shares diverse stories of all people.
Yes, I’ve not had a bad start, but I know I can do even better.
I can do more.
We can all do more.
That doesn’t mean I won’t continue using this place as a space to inspire and to dream.
We need dreams more than ever.
We need hope.
From the chaos I feel like our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has been an incredible leader.
She tweeted “What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand. Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities - New Zealand is their home - they are us”.
I am so proud of how she has vocalised our unity as a country at this difficult time.
Everyone in New Zealand is one.
We must be inclusive and stop thinking about people as being ‘other’.
I also felt the sucker punch delivered, that when Donald Trump asked her what he could do to help that she replied “Sympathy and love for all Muslim communities”.
I am proud that all semi-automatic guns in New Zealand will be now outlawed.
I am proud that this happened within 24 hours.
I am also proud to be a policy advisor and of all the amazing public servants who will have been working overtime on this already over the weekend.
I am proud of the fact many more hours will be spent in addressing this head on by policy advisors going forward, making change to the laws of New Zealand.
Personally, I am glad I studied law and have more than only my blog as what I can offer the world.
I am glad I can have both.
We need to remember the victims, not the killer.
To learn their stories.
To make a difference by showing compassion and understanding to one another, and especially our immigrant and migrant communities.
To be honest, I’m still in shock.
On Friday night, I dreamt about guns.
I don’t know how they crept into my dreams but there they were.
Everyone will have their own story. A few amazing people shared theirs with me about how they felt. This one is my favourite and I will leave you with it.
“As someone who grew up in Christchurch, called Christchurch home and eventually ran away from that home to Wellington - my heart just hurts. I can’t put into words how I’m feeling but I’m devastated that the hate we so often hear about overseas has now occurred on our shores” shared one reader. “Walking past parliament this morning I burst into tears seeing all of those flags at half mast.
…It doesn’t feel real”.