49,950

It’s just a number, one of a several which struck me over this last week.

We have all, here in New Zealand and in the wider world, felt the impact one way or another, of the attack in Christchurch on a small segment of our society.
Until that fateful Friday there were an estimated 50,000 New Zealanders identifying as Muslim. By the end of that sunny Christchurch afternoon, the number was 49,950.

Mathematics has never been my strong point, but even I can see the massive impact losing one in ever 1000 is going to have. New Zealand is a small nation with a low population. The Islamic community is but a small part of us but it needs to be acknowledged, the Call to Prayer has been heard on these shores since the late 1840’s. As much a founding tenant of this nation as any other.

Twenty- one minutes. Quite a long time when you break it down. Imagine how much you can achieve in that time frame?
Given twenty-one minutes, the New Zealand Police were able to not only respond to the hideous scenes at two different locations, effectively and efficiently, they also had the perpetrator in custody.
Questions have been raised over whether there were more targets, or if indeed he gave himself up, but the fact remains, within twenty-one minutes the threat was eliminated.
Situation over and not a single further shot fired. Quite remarkable I reckon.
Well done NZ Police.

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There many more numbers relating to this hideous event.
The number of people in our hospitals and morgues, mopping it all up. The support staff and agency personnel working with the victims and their families, the politicians and policy makers racing to change our gun laws. The number of bouquets and cards and messages lining Deans Ave and in Linwood.
The highest number is reserved for the throngs of people who have shown their support, love and compassion in a time when those traits were most needed.

The lowest number?
3.

When the name and age of the youngest victim was read out, I lost it.
I had been saddened, had been angry and uncomprehending and had felt a sense of disbelief and loss and yes, my eyes had moistened on many occasions over the week.
But when a list of names and ages was released on Wednesday, read out on Magic Radio, detailing the first of the poor souls to be returned to their families, I broke down.
Not for long, not a complete letting go. I carried on with my work, only the full fruit of the surrounding Kiwifruits vines witness to my moment of grief.

I asked myself then and I still do, how does the death of an innocent child further anyone’s cause, in any way?
Of course, there is no rational answer to such a question because simply, the death of a child serves no purpose.

Yesterday I stepped away from work and with my family, attended the Whangarei Islamic Center.
Little more than a shed down a dusty drive in a light industrial area of town, we were one of the first to arrive in preparation to the call to prayer. We weren’t there ahead of the heavily armed police officers on duty.
Strange, how intimidating and how comforting that armed presence proved to be.
We read the tributes, were invited inside to take in the space and then a speech was made by a Palestinian member of our community, telling of the Muslim appreciation of the aroha they had been blessed with over the previous seven days. He spoke of unity, of togetherness and support and sounded every bit the hurting representative of a wronged group and very much a representative of hope and love.

There were many people attending, from all walks of life, adorned in scarves or without. people like me who had skipped out of work and were obviously planning on returning. People like my wife who donned a scarf and cradled two curious, shy and impatient children.
For two minutes we were silent (actually, Wee-Man failed bitterly in that regard).
there was a oneness in it, that silence.
Then the call to prayer.

I dropped the kids home, returning to work for the afternoon.
Life going as as normal.
Forever changed.

Fleetingly, on the drive between Mosque and work, I thought it might be time to be done with it.
To be done with him.
Friday, the memorials around the country, the vigils at mosques and in the stadiums and town squares, all helped. A big step on the pathway of grieving and recovery that we all, as Muslims as new Zealanders, are currently on.
So, do we need him any more? Does he need to be in our courts?
Does he need to be in our headlines? Exactly where he wants to be?
How simple it would be, to just end him.

But, I am not the eye for an eye type. I think.
Now is a time for rational thinking. Acknowledge the grief and the hurt and the pain.
Acknowledge the anger.
The best we can do now is talk, ask the hard questions and not stop asking them until they are answered and most important of all, stop the voice of evil, the words of the wicked, so often the loudest, from being heard.

 

Second Chances for Tony Veitch?

I feel conflicted, yet certain. 

I used to start my day early. Crawling out of bed at 4:30am and heading out the door was sometimes a trial and a drag.

Anything I could use to get me through was greatly appreciated. Some thumping beats, energy drinks or strong coffee, for those days when I was really depleted. Often just a laugh would go a long way.

Sometimes the key was distraction. I had a physical job, a courier on the streets of north Dunedin, at the time when the subject of the coming rant was relevant. Quite apart from the physicality was the time pressures and the demands of dealing with clientele and traffic, such as it is in Dunedin.

It was good to let the mind slip into auto pilot, let the job take care of itself for a bit and let the brain engage in something else.

I am sports fan. Not as much as I used to be, but I am still a fan of all things ball and bat and endurance and racing and mano vs mano and all the rest. Wind powered, people powered, petrol powered, bring it on.

So there I was, busy, focused, negotiating the streets of north Dunedin and the whimsies of my clients, RadioSport’s breakfast show giving regular updates, as I slid in and out from behind the drivers seat.

I have always had a soft spot for the show. Dearest and I even featured on one illustrious occasion. Back then, the host was Tony Veitch. I didn’t then, and I certainly don’t now, think he was the best broadcaster out there, not by a long shot. That said, there was something infectious about his style of presentation, high on energy and laughs and good with a guest.

Veitch was cheesy, but seemed to be self-effacing, able to laugh at himself as much as he poked fun at others. He could take it as well as he gave it. He struck me as a bit arrogant, but then maybe you need some arrogance, to put yourself out there each and everyday and I will not bag people for being a bit cocky, particularly if they are the top of the heap, and Veitch seemed as if was there, or there abouts.

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What I really did like was his access. The man seemed to have the ear of all the movers and shakers in New Zealand sport. He was trusted and even liked by sportsmen and women, by coaches and administrators and other broadcasters and journalists. He had a large and loyal following among the sports savvy listener and his opinions were listened to.

I listened.

Then one day I stopped. It was the day I found out, along with RadioSport listeners and the nation, that Tony Veitch had physically assaulted his partner.

Sounds mild, sounds bland, sounds like it would be too easy to be blase to something described in a term so everyday, so common in our current vernacular. Physical assault.

The man, diminutive as he is, kicked his Mrs down the stairs, breaking her back.

Then he paid her off.

Then he made a public apology, lacking any contrition, a statement all about how sorry he felt for himself. And if that wasn’t enough, we had to go through some sad, half-arsed, quasi O.J Simpson episode I was almost hoping ended more tragically than it did.

Okay, that last bit is a bit harsh and a tad too far.

RadioSport lost a listener. I was never able to reconcile the idea that Veitch’s employers, his colleagues at least, had no idea what type of man their star performer was, is, and just what he was capable of.

Gradually I forgave the radio station. After all, not their fault, not their doing and they took what seemed like appropriate steps. But then he was back, Tony Veitch, on our airwaves again, back in the public domain.

Was I, as a target demographic audience member, supposed to have forgiven the man? Should I have moved on, as the re-hiring of Veitch suggested?

And therein lies the conflict. Because I am all for giving people a second chance, believe in the possibility of rehabilitation and redemption. So sure, a second shot, time served and all that…but surely only after you have shown remorse, accepted and owned your guilt, made amends as best you can. No sign of that, not that I have seen, not that we have been shown.

Next thing, Veitch announces he is to be on our T.V screens again.

I was a little astounded to read a Stuff.co.nz article based on his announcement. Yes, I was taken aback at the idea our leading television sports caster would think it was okay to have Veitch back in the limelight.

How could this man’s opinion be valued anymore? How could Tony Veitch be held in any form of regard anymore. How could any right thinking Kiwi decide this was a good thing to do?

But what is rankling me too, is the association. Social commentators and opinion piece scribblers, already happy to tell me what I think, are too readily making the link between Tony Veitch and the everyday sports fan, particularly male ones.

Any domestic violence, in all its insidious forms, is too much. Everyone can agree on that, without having to be told to. I know a number of my peers who switched off from the man, Tony Veitch, and the broadcasters who have stood by him. As broadcaster, a presenter, for me Veitch fits into the ‘so what’ category…a voice I simply no longer hear.

As a man, as a follower of sports, I will not accept that it is okay to have this man in the public realm. The ratings dollar is obviously far too attractive and Veitch obviously rates. So the question of social responsibility is raised, and whether or not it is the concern of business, even one in the business of broadcasting.

But to be told I am responsible for okaying domestic violence? That sports fans, people like me, are enabling the behaviour? That all sportsmen are overly, overtly aggressive and excessively masculine, as if these traits will immediately correlate to hitting women?  No, way, leave me out it.

Reading that made me angry.

Just like the majority of men, the majority of sportsmen, anger is an emotion I can accept, control and even utilize. I won’t be lashing out, I won’t need to be apologetic and remorseful. Because I will be a man, a true man.

A real man.

Unlike Tony Veitch.

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