Two months ago I gathered a handful of links to mark the massacre in Christchurch, but couldn’t collect my thoughts sufficiently to post them here. The city has been one of my favourite places ever since J. and I lived there for a few months in 1997, and as often happens with awful events in places I love, I found it hard to disentangle the events from my memories of the place.
I was shaken, at first, by the thought that such malignant racism was lurking around us as we enjoyed the city’s charms; and then by knowing that I shouldn’t have been, because New Zealand has a history of racial violence going back to its beginnings. The South Island in particular is bound to harbour white supremacists, whether in 2019 or in 1997. When the attacker turned out to be Australian, I was even less surprised—white supremacists shaped my home country and have never gone away.
The massacre wasn’t really about Christchurch itself, except as a symbol of peace cruelly shattered. It was about Islamophobia, white supremacy, gun control, and social media and the news media as conduits for extremism—as reflected in the links I collected (some on Christchurch, others on white supremacy):
New Zealand responded to the horror admirably, with Jacinda Ardern securing her place as the best antipodean prime minister since David Lange that Australians wish we’d had.
I was back in Christchurch again briefly in 1998, but haven’t been since. The city was famously hit by earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011, which hit me hard at the time, but they were two of the busiest months of my busiest year at work, so I didn’t have time to rehearse my memories of the place here then, either. (I posted some links and wrote a couple of limericks instead.) A fuller reminiscence of Christchurch, the South Island and New Zealand will really have to wait until I’ve scanned my photos from the time, which isn’t likely to happen for a while yet. At least then it can be for its own sake, rather than a memory prompted by misery.