I can’t stop thinking about the mass shootings in New Zealand. I won’t use the real name of the shooter; I’ll just call him the Little Man.
The professors and pundits on the News Hour had this to say about it: This is just the latest and it won’t be the last terrorist attack that is part of an international “White Power Movement.”
This is the issue of our age. There are 25 million refugees in the world right now—more than at any time since the end of World War II. That doesn’t include displaced people (40 million), who are those who are still in their own country but who have fled their homes due to war or natural disaster. It doesn’t count economic migrants (untold millions) who have left their countries to seek work elsewhere.
All this movement brings people into contact with others who are different from themselves. Or it just creates the impression of it; we all see caravans and individual refugees, immigrants, and migrants in our newsfeeds.
People like Little Man aren’t crazy. They don’t spring up at random. They don’t have any original ideas or philosophies. They may not know one another personally, but they connect online and read each other’s “manifestos,” as LM called his. They’re just plain racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, homophobic, misogynistic, Islamophobic men.
And there’s the demographic commonality—they’re all men.
I think about the little boys I tend at the YMCA child care center. There’s the three-year-old who waits by the front door, wearing his Superman cape, saying, “Mommy come back?” over and over in his plaintive, squeaky voice. When mommy does come to pick him up, he exclaims, “Mommy here!” as though she is even more exciting to see than Superman. There are baby boys and toddlers who want to be picked up and held, and rocked, and hugged. Until they get to be about five, they play with girls as easily as boys, seemingly unaware of any differences.
Eighteen years from now, will they be punching their girlfriends, slapping their kids, kicking their dogs, and charging into houses of worship or college campuses or government buildings with assault rifles?
One night another three-year-old boy came to me, pointed to another boy, and whined, “That brown kid took my ball!” I told him to go get another ball. I didn’t try to lecture him about his use of the word “brown” because I knew he was being literal and descriptive, not racist. And he was only three. In 20 years, will he be marching in White Power parade with a torch, yelling hateful slogans?
What happens between four and 20? There must be experts who know how we could interrupt the transformation of innocent children into hate mongers.
A faster intervention would be changed gun laws. Little Man is Australian. I’m guessing he moved to New Zealand because guns are easier to be had there. There are three guns for every human in New Zealand. After a mentally-ill gunman killed 35 people in Tasmania in 1996, Australia restricted ownership of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns and pump-action shotguns and reformed licensing. The government held a mandatory gun buy-back in which Aussies handed in 643,000 firearms.
I have many friends and relatives who are a lot more liberal than I am. I have never heard any of them propose that we rescind the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which says, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
This is the “slippery slope” smokescreen used by the NRA and its members to block even the smallest, most sensible gun law change.
I idealized Australia. I thought it was kinder and gentler than the US. But out of 25 million people there are bound to be those who believe being white makes them superior.
It’s easy to despair and feel powerless. This is when I remind myself of the words from the Talmud: “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” In other words, no one expects you, personally, to change gun laws or teach all boys empathy, but you can and should do something.