Remembering New Zealand—How We Can Make Hope Out of Tragedy

Two years ago I made an exception on my personal photography blog. My blog is about photography. Period. No politics. No religion. No social commentary. Just photography.

But on March 15, 2019, my favorite country in the world suffered an insult so outrageous that I could not remain silent. 

This is what I said:


Now More Than Ever

Yesterday, 49 fellow inhabitants of our world were murdered while they were worshiping in mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The madness of this act is unfathomable. The fact that it happened in New Zealand is deeply saddening. New Zealand ranks number two in the Global Peace Index.

At times like this our hearts can get very dark and the darkness can be infectious. While we mourn the loss, we must not succumb to a hopeless apathy for the state of our world.

The vast majority of people in the world are good. They have their hopes and dreams. They have family and friends whom they love. They have jobs and projects and passions and art. They are trying to live their lives as well as they can. They are the ones—and we count ourselves among them—who deserve attention and help and love and support.

Please, now more than ever, spread this word in whatever way you can.

My Best Wishes to All,

Michael


New Zealand
New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Aoraki/Mt. Cook (Photo by Michael Scandling)

Shortly after I posted the blog, the number of deaths grew to 50. As I write this today, the tears come back to my eyes. These 50 people did nothing to deserve the ultimate in religious discrimination: being wiped off the face of the earth. Their “crime” was worshiping God. And, through no fault of their own, being typecast by others. Guilt by association.

The press, of course, had a feeding frenzy pandering to planet-wide panic. For her part, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern personally vowed not to say or print the shooter’s name nor show his picture, and she pleaded with New Zealanders and the press to follow her lead. Her intention was to deny him the personal publicity he sought. The New Zealand press was in accord. The world press, for the most part, was not. That’s why I chose to counteract the chaos-mongering with a positive message. And that’s why I chose to feature a photo I had taken just a few months earlier of New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Aoraki/Mt. Cook, in clear, clean fresh air. Because that symbolizes New Zealand. Not hate. Not murder.

Two days later I broke my rule again. The message I posted was important two years ago. It is just as vital—arguably even more so—today. It will remain so forever. You counteract lies with truth. You counteract evil with good. You counteract hate with love.

Tribute
A floral tribute to those who lost their lives in the Christchurch mosque shootings (Photo by Nigel Spiers/Shutterstock.com)

Betterists

When I wrote yesterday’s post, it was my way of pushing back against the horrible manifest insanity that has resulted in the violent deaths of 50 people (as of this writing) and many injured in Christchurch, New Zealand. I couldn’t stand it. I had to do something. I felt that my words might serve as a tiny antidote to the racial, religious and cultural hatred that had now infested New Zealand, of all places. I felt that a tiny antidote was better than nothing at all. It would go to my friends, relatives, and followers and that would be it.

That did not turn out to be the case. My post went all over the world. It was re-blogged and linked several times. I couldn’t believe my eyes as my blog stats shot up. And the post was met with 100% positive response, which proved my central point: the vast majority of people in this world are good and decent and have a desire to be positive, even in the worst of circumstances. And everyone who responded expressed a desire to be positive, in spite of it all.

You counteract lies with truth. You counteract evil with good. You counteract hate with love.

The terrorists and criminals are in the minority. Really a very small minority. The media—be it mainstream, alternative, or social—works hard to make this minority seem larger to satisfy its bloodlust. But the good, decent people who are just trying to get along in life are still the vast majority.

We’re the good guys. We outnumber the bad guys. The whole blog community, if you will, is still a tiny fraction of the entire world, and the people who responded to my post are the tiniest fraction of that. But still, where there are some good people, there are more.

So here’s my idea:

There are terrorists in the world. They are insane. They want the worst for people and for the world. They are a minority.

There are good, decent, helpful people in the world. We want the best for people and the world. That’s us. We are sane. We’re the majority.

The bad ones are terrorists. They practice terrorism. They try to make things worse.

We are betterists. We practice betterism. We make things better. We don’t “try.” We just do it.

How? Help people. Support organizations that work to make the world a better place. Be kind in your dealings with others. Smile. Make others smile. Clean up your community. Help those in need to be able to stand up and help themselves. When someone says as a broad generality, “It’s all bad,” ask them, “Who says?” And shun the person who says so. Use your talents to make the world a better place.

Let’s do it and have a great time while we’re at it.

If you agree, spread it around any way you can. Blog. Social media. Word-of-mouth. By example. Any way you can. Just don’t make it a secret.

My Best Wishes to All,

Michael

Author

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