The last few weeks have been really hard. It’s as if our world has completely changed overnight, and it really has. The Christchurch terror attacks have not only changed us as a country but they’ve also changed us as people.
A lot us are struggling with grief, sadness and even anger and anger is a logical and understandable emotion. However it’s important not to let that anger eat away at you and make you lose faith in the world. Instead, try to choose love.
New Zealand has always been my home (save for the months I spent in Europe in my 20s) and I have always felt safe here. Almost smugly safe. When I meet people who had moved to New Zealand from the USA they always say the same thing; “we just wanted to live in a safer country.”
I always felt pretty chuffed that our little country at the bottom of the world was their safe haven.
When I was in standard 2 at school (year 4 for you young bastards) I made friends with a girl called Champei from Cambodia. When she started school half way through the year I was jealous of her for two reasons. Firstly because she had long, straight, black hair (whereas I had short blonde curly hair) and secondly because she said she had lived in a house right on the beach.
Despite my envy we became fast friends because she let me sit behind her on the mat and braid her hair. Soon I learned that he house on the beach had been a small shack and she’d had to leave Cambodia because of the fighting. She told me how her family had had to flee their home and travel to Vietnam. Her family we so happy to finally live in a safe place where they didn’t need to worry about soldiers coming into their village.
Champei made me feel proud of my country. I loved that we had helped her family live a better life. I didn’t understand how immigration worked at the time but I still felt like it was pretty cool to be part of the country that helped people in need.
At intermediate I became best friends with a girl from South Africa. She couldn’t get over the fact that people in New Zealand let their kids walk to school. “In South Africa no one walks to school. It’s just not safe.” She went on to explain that not only did she used to live in a gated community but her house also had barred windows. When her mum picked us up to go for a playdate at her house she immediately locked the car doors and windows after we got in. Later I asked my friend why. She explained that if you didn’t lock your car doors in South Africa you were likely to get car-jacked when you stopped at the lights.
Safe. New Zealand was safe. It was a constant message I received growing up and because I was so constantly reminded of how safe it was here I never once took it for granted.
But on March 15 when I heard the news of the shootings that’s what rang through my head. I thought we were all safe here? They always said we were safe. Those poor people chose to come here because it was safe. My heart broke as the news unfolded and I wept as I hugged my children tight and sent love to the families of the victims in Christchurch.
My first instinct was to feel angry. To feel hatred toward the person who had done this and to whoever may have encouraged his hateful actions. But I knew there was nothing that could come from that anger and hatred except more pain.
It’s normal to feel anger and hatred in response to such a shitty act of evil. But there’s no point sending your energy there. It’s much more productive to choose love instead. Instead of letting the anger take you down, act out of love and do what you can.
Another thing I’ve found is that awful events like this tend to bring a lot of ugliness out of people that we may not have seen before. Friends of mine have told me of family members who uttered low level bigoted comments after the attacks, or work colleagues who have publicly shamed others for owning an air riffle, aggressively ordering them to surrender it.
It’s important that when these things come up we don’t lead with anger or hatred but instead use love. When your dim-witted bigoted uncle Jeff tries to go down the route of ‘now that Frazer guy has a point’ try to resist the urge to bitch slap him with the frying pan – or crack an egg over his head (Praise for Egg Boy!). Simply explain what a shitty comment that is to make after 50 innocent people have just been killed. When that lady who catches the bus with you rolls her eyes and mutters “they’re blowing this whole thing out of proportion!” don’t punch her in the tit and call her a stupid cunt, simply explain “Well Sharon, what if he’d walked into your church on a Sunday?” Keep it simple, keep it sweet, and try not to let their hate make you hateful.
Personally, I’ve found the best way to process these events is through art. The act of moving through the sadness instead of letting it hold you still and weigh you down can be very powerful. Without thinking I found myself at the canvas painting what I felt. I didn’t filter anything, just let it flow. Sometimes it is surprising what comes through the brush…
Another powerful tool I’ve been using (care of Gabrielle Bernstein) is this: When you feel lost or out of control, be of service to others. This is incredibly powerful. If you feel helpless and like you don’t know how to handle these feelings of grief do something for someone. It’s been amazing to see so many people already using this tool, giving their time and energy to raising money for the families affected by this tragedy.
Sending love and light to you all.