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.

 

Hey, World, Leave Our Kids Alone

Wifey and I are pretty open with our kids.
There is not much we keep from them, no subject we consider taboo and no questions we are not prepared to answer.

Of course we moderate the things our kids have access to; what they view on television and the internet, what they hear when listening to music or podcasts or anything of the like and, as old school as it might sound, what they read.
There are themes and theories and ideologies and images and thoughts espoused through a myriad of media platforms, all of which are readily accessible on a multitude of devices, many of which can be housed in your pocket and held in your hand.

We have good kids, children still in every sense of the word despite the wide scope of information they have at their fingertips. As a reasonably cohesive unit, the messages from Wifey and I have been fairly consistent over the years, our delivery relatively level and our availability assured.
Yes, I could spend a bit more time involved with their homework, delve deeper into their interests or passions.
Yes, we could be stricter on some things and show greater leniency on others.
Generally, we have a fluid household, plenty of noise and activity always under at least an element of control. To quote Madness and their hit Our House ‘there’s always something happening and it’s usually quite loud’.

Like I said, good kids. No real dramas or concerns, outside of the myriad of things you might expect from a growing family with working parents.
When things go wrong, we are there for them. Open and honest and available. Wifey and I don’t have an explanation for everything and nor can we always find a solution. However, with a little reasoning, there isn’t much which can’t be worked through.

Every now and then, the big things come along.
Those moments you cannot be prepared for. Those times which catch you by surprise, no matter how organised and aware you might think you are.
You can’t have your finger on every pulse.
But, and what a big pause it is, there are some things  as a aparent it is almost impossible to explain, to find reasoning in. Because, simply, you don’t have the answers.

How do you explain pure, unfettered evil?
How can you help a child understand the hate fueled ideology which drives a person to perpetrate such horror on a community, on a people?
You can’t.
Especially when you don’t understand yourself.

Tears have been shed in this house and will continue to be for some time I feel.
Good. We are crying as a nation and as a people. Tears for those who lost their lives, their families and friends and tears for all they knelt and prayed for in the place they went for solace, reflection and the place they went for hope and love and all the rest.
Number One cried today, the enormity of it all finally striking at here heart.
The pain was there on Number Two’s face when she first asked what was going on Friday evening. There isn’t a full level of comprehension for her and for that small mercy, I am grateful.
E-Bomb and the Wee Man are too young to comprehend anything beyond the vibe emanating from their parents. They get it. Something is wrong.
Something is very very wrong.

I have struggled to keep the language of hate out of my own words.
My voice has crackled at times, close to breaking, when I speak of these events. It is hard, particularly when you have to look a thirteen year old girl in the eye and see the realisation dawning in her that this world we live in, the one we all share, can house people capable of being despicably wicked, people capable of visiting hideous acts of cruelty on others. Innocent others.

I am glad they got this bastard alive. I realise it is what he wanted; his platform, his moment of infamous immortality. I hope he gives us the answers, even though we all know they will be the deluded ramblings of a crazed mind, little more than a jujmbled rehashing of the various messages of hate brought to us over generations of evil thinkers and doers.
But I need to hear it, as awful and insidious as it might be. Because I don’t know what to tell our kids.
I don’t know HOW to tell our kids.

We don’t shelter our four children.
There is no cotton wool enveloping them, they do not view the world through the shimmering haze of a bubble.
The temptation is to put the walls up, bring down the shutters, erect the barricades.
We won’t. There will be open and honest discourse as long as there are questions.
Our kids will be watched, a eye kept on them in the same way I hope all parents are watching over their children at the moment.
Kids see and feel, sometime more they we do.
Kids hurt.

All I can ask of my Wife and myself is that we do the best we can to raise well rounded children, ones we can send off into the world as well prepared as we could make them. Happy and healthy and open and honest and caring and loving and genuine young people, armed with open minds, good hearts and a smile.
We want them to see the good, in everything they do and see and all the people they meet. We want them able to cope, to have them ready for the big bad world.
Because yes, some of that world around us is bad. So mind-numbingly bad. And that bad world is no longer surrounding us, it has visited us, come to our shores and bought an extreme example of its evil with it.
Let our kids be together. Let them play, let them sit and chat and let them mingle and let them laugh and cry and do whatever it is they feel they need to cope.
Youth are doers and they will want to be active and vibrant over this issue.
As such, we will visit the Whangarei Islamic Center on Friday and we, as a family, will watch over our local Muslim community as they bend in prayer. We will bring nothing more than a smile, carry nothing other than hugs and strong shoulders, ready to be leaned on.
Will we see you there?

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In the meantime, to the tune of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall…Hey, World, Leave Our Kids Alone!

 

Tears of Islam

Should that headline read tears for Islam?

According to my wife it should. She sat in her favourite chair, our slumbering youngest nestled against her despite the persistent heat of a summer which refuses to give in, and wept.

As far as is known, as I sit and write, forty nine people are confirmed dead.

Forty nine men, women and children, literally on their knees in prayer, gunned down.

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I don’t need to describe the horrors and nor do I need to decry them.
Done, by all the media outlets and all the commentators and all those with the tech and the wherewithal.
I am certainly not going to apportion blame.
I could point the finger at social media, which allows the like minded to agitate and to ridicule and to deride. Worse still, social media allows these people to congregate.
We could question gun laws, asking why there isn’t a register of weapons for every person issued a firearms license.
We could look to our police and our security agencies, our intelligence services and border control and government and policy, ask a collective why?
You can’t police the nutters. You can’t legislate for the insane.

You can blame the people pulling the trigger.

An extremist is insane.
Be they Christian or Buddhist or Catholic or Muslim.
Be as far right or left of the political divide as you wish.
Just not too far.
Be as devout and as pious and as proud of your chosen religion as you feel you must.
Where religion and politics intersect, be fervent and aware and earnest and also be open and appraising and smart. Stand your ground, by all means. All the while, let those around you stand theirs too.
There is plenty ground to go around.

I have been away from the keyboard for quite some time.
A new house, a new job, kids starting a new year in new schools in a new town. We have been busy, hectic at times and it pains me to acknowledge, it takes something like this to fire my emotional output.
Too often the word ‘tragedy’ is bandied about but now we have one, yet again in the city of Christchurch. So much that place has suffered and so often there are setbacks to recovery.
But, 15/3/2019 contained no force of nature, no random act of seismic power. People did this and they did it to each other.
I just don’t get it.

Video footage taken and posted by  the perpetrator, as if his actions and those of his mates were somehow significant, as if they had some point, some depth we all needed to become aware of. Bad enough and all as he defiantly gives the impression he is proud of his actions.
And in so doing, he drives the final nail into the coffin which contained the innocence of this nation. The perceived innocence at least.

The New Zealand Wars, Tiriti o Waitangi, Think Big, Nuclear Free. Big issues, big standpoints with different results or none at all.
In regards to our nations stance on the nuclear issue, we watched a ship blown up and sunk in one of our harbours, at the cost of a life. State sponsored terrorism.
Now the argument, and the terrifying response, seems to be over immigration. Delivered to us, it would seem, at the hands of an immigrant.
How is Australian Immigration gonna like getting this one back?

Because our Prime Minister is right. Jacinda Ardern is correct in telling us that this man, immigrant or not, is not one of us. He does not belong.
If his colleagues are Kiwi born and raised, then they too no longer belong.
They are not New Zealanders.
Not true, died in the wool (merino) New Zealander’s. They are white trash filthy scum and white trash scum should be stateless.

I know New Zealand is not the land of milk and honey.
No, wait…it is!
We are Godzone, we are small and far away and exotic and beautiful and clean and green and we are friendly and accommodating and yes, we are innocent.
We are non-threatening and we are courageous and we are forthright and earnest, trying our best in every endeavour and we do get so much of it right.
We smile because, generally, we are fed and housed and educated and yes, we are loved.
Kiwis don’t fear you because we don’t threaten you.

Number One’s math teacher is Palestinian. English is not his first language and I think he knows some of the kids find it hard to understand him at times.
But kids don’t want to send him back from where he came. Kids want a day off to wave banners and moan about the environment.After all, aren’t numbers a language in themselves? A language I can’t understand either.
Think. How is his night? Does he spend his night in fear? Does he worry, as he bends in prayer, that all he will be delivered was a bullet to the back of his skull?

Palestinian mathematics teachers are welcome in this town, on this island, in this country.
Bangladeshi cricketers are welcome and Pakistani grocers and Afghani accountants Uzbek truck drivers and who ever from where ever.
Extremists from Australia or Christchurch or Matamata or Culverden or wherever, aren’t.

But this isn’t really about race or creed or colour.
15/3/2019 Christchurch was about ego. It was about exclusion and loss and a sense of entitlement, a misguided notion of where the wrongs of the world are and how best to put them right.
This was about kitten stranglers, about kids who used to pull the legs off spiders just to watch the poor creature, and the poor gathered boys and girls, squirm.

This was not about Islam.

This was not about New Zealand.

I watched rugby tonight. My kids watched TV. We ate as a family. We remained ‘we’ even as my wife’s tears were justified and I battle to contain my anger.

Tears for Islam
Tears for Christchurch
Tears for New Zealand
Yes, tears for the people and families directly involved. Tears for the police and emergency services and all those who will now be involved mopping it all up, no doubt for years to come.

Tears for humanity.
Just when will we get that right?