From Christchurch: A Critique and a Lament

From Christchurch: A Critique and a Lament March 16, 2019

After gathering in our five sons from their schools where they had been in lockdown for several hours we sat in front of the news together, in silence and horror.

Then, as the night drew on we switched off the television, lit a candle and prayed.

We prayed for the victims and their families.
We prayed with gratitude for the police and their fine, courageous work.
We prayed for the medical staff, who were, as we prayed, trying desperately to save lives.
We prayed for our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern and for her continued wisdom and compassion.
We prayed for our city,  that we would rise above anger and violence.
We prayed that we’d be able to sleep.

Prayer is, in these contexts, a necessary comfort and a power.

But, so is critique.

So let’s call this willful mass murder of innocent victims at prayer what it is.

______

I’ve woken up in my city Christchurch to international media accounts of yesterdays attacks on our city’s Muslim community.  Some media outlets, particularly those in the US are trying to make these attacks out to be indicative of a problem of extremism on both sides.

The only kind of extremism that this is, is far right white supremacism.

Americans are trying to make this relevant to the gun debate.

The only relevance this has to our guns laws is that we clearly need to tighten them up.  And they will be tightened up.

The fact is, the shooter was Australian and was inspired by Donald Trump as a symbol of white supremacy. He came to my city to plan this, precisely because it is diverse, peaceful and inclusive. He wanted to make a point.  An Australian senator has tried to blame this on New Zealand’s immigration policy and our welcome to Muslims.  He too was trying to make a point.

This should give us all pause.

The politics of this mass murder of innocent people at prayer isn’t that complex.

Isolated, socially and economically rejected white males with unfettered access to social media and without a well-formed political consciousness to check their excesses are getting together online to plan terror on innocent people. These acts are largely impersonal. They are motivated to get attention and to give them a sense of power and relevance that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

White supremacy is what you get when the false promise of white privilege escapes the young white male underclass.

White supremacist politics is what you get when privileged white males  (like Donald Trump and Australian senator Fraser Anning, and former New Zealand Prime Minister Don Brash), cynically exploit the social shame of the white male underclass.

This is just a violent and perverted expression of white capitalist colonial patriarchy. The sentiment isn’t new but the scale of it is.

I’m conscious that as a brown mother of five white sons my work to ensure that my boys are consciously and compassionately politically formed just got an uptick.

I don’t know how this will unfold in the days and years to come, but as a woman of faith, I can pray for an end to the insanity.  But, I can also be clear-eyed about its causes.  Naming it is an important first step to changing it.

Last night, our PM Jacinda Ardern said, ‘This is not who we are.’

I’d like to push back on this a bit.  Maybe it’s who most of us don’t want to be, but it IS who some of us are, and have been since New Zealand’s first white supremacists took this country from my Māori forebears because they saw themselves,  their culture and their way of life as infinitely superior.

___________________

But in the meantime, my and my family’s Christian prayers will be for my Muslim brothers and sisters and their right to a peaceful, fearless prayer life.

I’m heading out the door soon to pay my respects at the police cordons around the mosques.

Today, I’ll gather with other Christians around the city to pray.

I’m so, so incredibly sad.

As I write this, I’m weeping.

My beautiful city.  Oh, my beautiful city.

Ma te Atua nga whanau pani e manaaki.

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