Memes, hashtags, profile picture overlays and other online paraphernalia have been circulating since the terror attacks on the two Christchurch mosques on Friday:
This is not who we are
I've been pretty quiet on social media, deeply disturbed by Friday's events and their ramifications. I haven't felt similar since 9/11, 18 years ago, when I was numb, shocked and deeply aware that, as REM so succinctly sang, it was the end of the world as we knew it.
I didn't feel fine then though. Nor do I now.
As a Muslim friend posted:
Remember when Taika Waititi said New Zealand was racist as f*** and everyone lost their shit. Yeah. That.
This IS who we are now and, as Toby Morris aptly closed his cartoon, This is us: "...when we don't say anything, we let a vile seed grow. This bulshit idea of us and them. But that's wrong. There's only us. All of us. This is us."
It's an uncomfortable feeling, admitting Aotearoa is no longer — and in fact has never really ever been — that safe haven in the Pacific we like to think and say it is. But that denial is the dangerous part — when we believe "this is not us," we miss who we really are.
For those who think that "this is not us" is an affirmation, remember this: our brains do not recognise negatives. Saying, "this is not us," is not only denial — it's actually confirmation of the truth: terrorism, hate and violence are us.
But it's not only what we are — and calling it isn't giving in to it. It's being honest that we have a shadow. We are also love, peace, safety, beauty, joy and many more aspects of light.
Light always casts a shadow – it's high school physics. On Friday its darkness loomed large and heavy, revealing itself with no doubt. The gift is that we now know it, where it is and how terrifying it is.
Our challenge now is to recognise it in all its smaller forms — jokes, comments, looks, etc — and call it out, rather than ignore it. Because a brave, honest, loving nation and people — that is who we are.