This morning my husband and I went for a swim and then visited a small farmer’s market in Rotorua. I bought some Chinese dumplings and we sat at a table and ate them. Nearby, a man was playing a guitar and singing The Wonder of You. It was a sublime moment, so ordinary, so peaceful and suddenly, I started to cry.
I’ve been crying a lot since yesterday afternoon. It comes in waves. One minute I feel calm, almost disconnected in a way and then it washes over me again. The grief is always accompanied by the same thought:
“How could this happen?”
I know there are many answers and lots of people can and will weigh in, but there’s a part of me that will never understand why people can be so cruel. It’s been with me since I was a boy. I never understood why anyone was mean to me or others. As a grown up, I understand the psychological complexity of humanity and the conditions that might lead people to hate one another and to dehumanise others. But there’s still a part of me – the inner child i suppose, that has never truly understood why we behave the way we do.
The thing I grapple with the most is that compassion and kindness are actually built in to all of us. Just seeing the outpouring of grief from my friends and millions of other people around the world shows that you don’t have to be Muslim to be horrified and heartbroken by what occurred yesterday.
As far as I know, I don’t know any of the victims, I’m not muslim, in fact I’m an atheist, yet I am devastated by this event. Why? Because I have compassion and empathy, and scores of my fellow countrymen were gunned down by cowards.
The other question that’s been on my mind is – how do we stop this from happening again?
I don’t have an answer to that. Humans have been killing each other forever, and we may never stop.
But. Perhaps, those of us who genuinely care for our fellow humans can focus on our own behaviours and thoughts and actions.
Perhaps we can become aware of our own prejudices, no matter how insignificant or even justified we might think they are. Perhaps we can stand up and speak out about the racism in our own country and advocate for the disadvantaged in society.
Why? Because prejudice harms all of us. We are all human beings, so when one of us is attacked because of the colour of her skin, or because of his gender identity, we are all attacked. We may feel protected from it if it affects ‘other’ people, but ultimately, prejudice is insidious – it creeps into all areas of life and can, if left to fester lead to totalitarianism and doctrines that sweep away our rights and our humanity.
I believe in universal human rights which includes self-determination and self-expression so long as we don’t deliberately harm other people. So if someone is sexist or racist or violent, then they are attacking the fundamentals of what it is to be human.
In this dreadful moment, I call on all of us from all walks of life to please stand in solidarity and to value all of humanity and its wonderful diversity. I especially call on politicians and religious authorities to put aside bigotry and dogma and political expediency and make valuing human life a priority.
If we don’t do that, none of us will be safe.