Guns have one purpose to shoot bullets. Those bullets are intended to kill something living. I grew up with guns, Dad was a hunter and his collection of rifles and shot guns never had any other meaning to me as a kid. When I spent a year in North Carolina in my late teens I had a bit of a reality check around the relationship between guns and bullets and how they are used. My first week of high school a student was shot outside a football game and this small town Kiwi kid suddenly had to grapple with the idea that people intentionally shoot people outside of war. When I heard a loud bang in Thames I just assumed it was a car back firing as it wasn’t uncommon. But back in Charlotte NC, I remember being pulled away from the window at my friends place when I went to see what kind of ‘car’ was having such a hard time. My education for a year introduced me to US history and US literature and other unintended experiences and learnings, such as how segregation still existed as a form of internalised practice. When we went to class all the ‘white’ students sat on one side of the class and all the ‘black’ students sat on the other and two rows of desks were left in the middle. This empty space spoke volumes, more than the rushed and superficial attempt to teach the history of the USA from ice age to current in one year. There were no discussions, or conversations about those awkward things like slavery just a pure memorising of facts and standardised tests of true false or multiple choice. I got a taste of the fear and mistrust that is born out of a history of colonisation that has been ‘white washed’ – at least that was my lasting impression. It certainly helped me to reflect more on our own history and whose voices are privileged in the documenting and accounting for the meaning of particular events.
Walking into a church and shooting 9 people could easily be made into an argument about gun control but perhaps the conversations that need to be had are about what fuels fear, supports it and gets in the way of seeing others as more ‘like us’ than different from us. Notions of purity and contamination, threat and danger generate the conditions for justifying extreme actions and sanctions.
I wonder if those two rows still sit empty at Myers Park High School? I wonder how many other ways rows of separation happen to segregate communities, those indirect yet quietly divisive modes of power. Kiwis might resonate more with the debate around the use of the confederate flag as a symbol of identity given our current musing on changing our national flag. That while not lethal in itself serves as an icon signifying particular values and beliefs belonging in another time. That in taking down unites people in other ways and enable a new story to emerge to be blown in the wind rather than blown away.
Like many kiwis I have blood ties to the United Kingdom and even fly the Welsh flag at the odd rugby game, because quite frankly it’s much more exciting sitting with Welsh/British Lions supporters than All Black fans. Why is it that no matter how much we win by spectators always look like they’re at a funeral and that’s not just the black attire.
I’ve been a bit non-preoccupied with our own elections this Saturday but am a little more interested in Scottland going for independence in just a couple of days. Again plenty of others with better credentials can offer insight to the political, economical, social and cultural complexities of such a move. But at a deeper, personal level I understand the striving for a unique identity. We’ve been toying with the same possibility for a while.
There are some obvious difference between what is happening in the UK and the Antipodes. But should we ever become concerned that moving toward independence might be met with serious resistance let me set forth a strategic plan of such cunning and ingenuity it could only be made from number 8 wire in a shed.
For a start there is a lot of water between us and anywhere else, even that large land mass to the west. Getting here requires effort and that in itself is a deterrent. But let’s say someone tries the water route. Try landing anywhere on a surf beach in NZ and you’d have to make it through territorial local surfers protecting their patch. If they try coming in from the air it’s likely the scenery would capture pilots attention so much that by the time enough selfies had been taken they’d be half way to Australia, the Antarctic or South America. If they did make land fall, they would have to navigate our roads. It’s not just they are narrow and gyroscopically winding, the road signs make no sense so anyone trying to read a map will have no idea where they are. If they dare think they’ll beat our traffic on bikes they won’t last 5 minutes before experience PTS. Then there is the weather, perhaps our greatest natural defense. Landing in the middle of summer it will likely be snowing and freezing.
But I reckon we have home field advantage that could add to some psychological warfare. Pump out Dave Dobbyn long enough and the exodus will create enough offshore wind those surfers will gladly let them through. If we could breed Weta to be the size of rodents or cats that is an image only a hardened entomologist could love. If all that fails we will simply torture them asking ‘so what do you think of New Zealand? Have you been here yet? They will not understand the answer to everything is ‘yeah na’ that stands for affirmative and negative depending on the intonation. Finally a decent Haka would do the trick.
Let’s remember that from space there are no painted lines and no up or down. In space no one can hear you scream, but on earth freedom sounds like ‘FREEEEEDOM’!!!! And Wetas should always be screamed at.