“…All the heroes and legends I knew as a child
Have fallen to idols of clay…
…I close my eyes and know there’s peace
In a world so filled with hatred
Then I wake up each morning
And turn on the news to find we’ve so far to go…
… Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away…”
Styx “Show me the way”
I cannot stop crying. It was embarrassing as I sat and cried over lunch in my favorite Mexican restaurant, but I didn’t muster enough energy to care.
Three days ago, one or more people walked into two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and shot the people during their worship service. In this horrific event of extraordinary violence, at least 50 people lost their lives. These were people who were in their sanctuary — Muslim people at prayer — young and old, men and women.
When an event like this occurs here, in the good old U.S. of A., it’s shocking enough. When it occurs in a place of typically low crime, very few gun related-deaths, and strong anti-gun laws, it’s incomprehensible. But there it was, pure evil on display and immediately in the news. And as this monster was killing human beings, he was broadcasting it in a live stream on Instagram, which is how my 17-year-old son saw it.
I have not been political in my rants on Medium, and I am not starting now, because this isn’t politics. I’m not blaming social media, either. The only truly guilty people here are the cowards who murdered innocents.
I cannot stop crying because I am grieving, not only for the people, although that is plenty of reason for pain. But I also cannot stop thinking of New Zealand, as I saw it just a year and some months ago.
Anyone who’s read my story about my trip and feelings about the land and people of New Zealand, knows how much I love that country. This was a trip that was a culmination of a dream more than 30 years in the making, and it didn’t disappoint on any level, from the friendly, polite, and easygoing people to the sacred beauty of the land. The adventures my family and I had there changed me, changed all of us, in ways that have to be experienced to be fully understood. Among those adventures, was a visit to the synagogue in Christchurch — partially to connect with Jews hallway across the world, and in part for the wonderful irony of a synagogue near Cathedral Square in Christchurch.
But with this mass shooting, a tragedy as unfathomable to me as breathing underwater, my ideal of a place — my happy place — had been shattered.
I am not its citizen, although I still desire to become one. I fell in love with New Zealand in 1983, sight unseen (except on the movie screen), and have never stopped loving it, like a steadfast lover who’s been jilted yet refuses to move on and is perfectly contented to love from afar. But now hatred has entered my paradise. Hatred and evil shattered what I placed in an iridescent bubble of my memory, and nothing is going to be the same. I grieve for that, as well. Of course, this was an unrealistic expectation — that is on me — there are no paradises on earth, no heavens here, and this is something I should have realized sooner. And Buddha was right when he said our misery occurs when our reality doesn’t live up to our expectations. Expectations are the very devil, for they will break your heart every time.
Right now, my heart feels both like a leaden, metal thing, and a bleeding, ripped organ. I’ve been in pain like this before. I’ve felt this helplessness and hopelessness, this misery, an echo of the despair and heaviness and loss after 9/11, and the Aurora Theater shooting in our community, in a cinema located a 10-minute drive from our house. Words cannot adequate describe my outrage, my anger and my anguish.
I am not looking for sympathy, this is not my personal tragedy. This is our shame, our burden, a world where so many evil people are driven by fear and hate — so many are ready and willing to shed the blood of innocents. Like after one of its devastating earthquakes, Christchurch, its Muslim community, and the rest of New Zealand will heal. The survivors will endure as all survivors do. But right now at this moment, we all mourn and cry for the tragedy in a place that sees the sunrise before any other in the world. It’s a place that is far away and isolated and protected — except for now. Now, it is a place that is close in our hearts and prayers, our sympathies and empathies. Right now, we are all New Zealand.