Radio NZ: PM’s words ‘they are us’ the reassurance NZ needed
Senior Consultant Brigitte Morten’s RNZ comment in the aftermath of the Christchurch Attack.
Opinion – In our office we learnt of the Christchurch attack like most people. A colleague asked me whether I had heard there had been a shooting in a mosque.
A small flicker of “this is horrible”, grew to sickening feeling in the stomach that the shooter was still at large, to a realisation that this was an act of terrorism, and that a schism had forever been struck across the rhetoric of New Zealand.
many of my travels overseas I have bragged about what a safe haven New Zealand was, sharing jokes with fellow backpackers that my greatest fear was being run down by a crazed sheep.
Unfortunately, in that one moment, New Zealand had joined the ever growing club of countries whose openness and willingness to accept outsiders is being punished by those with extremist views.
For the Prime Minister, not only would she and her staff have to process this realisation themselves but they also have to do so on behalf of the country.
What do they need to do now, to ensure the country felt safe? What level of information is appropriate to give when the whole country is reeling with shock and horror?
You could see that realisation and pressure in the Prime Minister’s eyes at the initial press conference in New Plymouth, where she knew that the scant information was just the beginning of something much bigger.
By her Beehive press conference later that afternoon, the true extent of what happened was realised. The Prime Minister started providing the reassurances the country needed.
She reminded us that this had happened because of what we pride ourselves on, that our migrant communities are part of the fabric of who we are. Her words, that they are us, will forever be stitched into our history.
It is no coincidence that in the 24 hours surrounding this attack, there were so many events scheduled that celebrated our diversity and ability to peacefully gather.
The thousands of young people able to protest peacefully against climate change; the celebration of our Polynesian heritage at Polyfest, and the highlighting of diversity at the Wellington Pride Parade are just a few.
The Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition, and many MPs joined the community in Christchurch on Saturday to express their condolences, their sorrow and join in the bewilderment that this event happened here.
The empathy was etched in to the faces of everyone in that gathering – reassuring us that we are united in our collective grief.
MPs have attended vigils around the country, with more to come.
While we look to the leaders in our community to reassure us in times like this, it is also comforting to know that they too held their families a little tighter on Friday evening.
This is what will make what happens next for the government be the most difficult to navigate.
Already they have met the expectations of the community in promising to ban semi-automatic weapons. For most, it is confusing that these weren’t already banned.
How they deal with the security questions, how the shooter avoided any watchlists, and how deep his views are ingrained in the community will be difficult.
The role of social media will also be examined, but the organic spread of the video is largely out of the government’s control. Tighter security is likely around our politicians, and at large community events.
There will be a high expectation put on our parliamentarians to ensure that this never happens again. When we never expected it to happen in the first place.
These are important and worthy questions, but none of these policy questions will change what happened.
They cannot repair the damage to our community. And importantly in these policy debates, it is not our laws or government that should be put at fault – the focus of our condemnation should be the coward that did this.