The shocking murder of Muslims in two mosques in New Zealand by an Australian enabled the country’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern to make a claim that is familiar to us in the US whenever some ghastly act occurs, that ‘this is not us’. It is undoubtedly true that the gracious and warm and inclusive way that she responded to this tragedy reflects very creditably on her and on a country where the leader can say such things, especially when compared to the crass way that the US president responds to similar events
But New Zealand is not free from bigotry. While I have had many enjoyable visits to that country, I do recall one day where I was on the sidewalk with relatives when a passing car with some young white men in it yelled out “Pakis!” at us, accompanied by remarks that definitely were not friendly or welcoming. (‘Paki’ is the derogatory term used against Pakistani people.)
Cartoonist Toby Morris says that this event should be an occasion for New Zealanders to reflect on their own unsavory history and attitudes and not smugly take refuge in the fact that the killer was not one of their own. Here is one panel from the long strip that is worth checking out.
Morris’s sentiments actually apply to all of us, not just New Zealanders. While it is very creditable for Ardern to appeal to the better nature of the New Zealand people, no country is free of bigotry and hate against ‘the other’ and these kinds of events should be occasions not only for positive exhortations but also for us to reflect upon our own culpability and how we can do better, rather than just feeling superior and patting ourselves on the back.