I do not know, nor do I particularly care what your stance on the 23 day “anti-mandate protest” outside Parliament is or was or will be.
What I cannot help but genuinely care about is you. Whoever you are, whatever side of this you were/are on, my concern is for you. How you are feeling? How are you coping with the barrage of bad news and divisiveness here and abroad. I care that you are able to find a space and place to be safe and serene and practice good mental hygiene and find joy amidst such turmoil.
Of course I still care and am saddened by the situation that swelled. It started in Alberta, the province where I was born. My heart hurts and I’ve blocked, muted and removed hundreds of connections for spreading misinformation. Not because I do or don’t agree with some or much of what anyone says online. And I certainly do not suddenly hate any of them. I choose distance because I need to protect my own mental health and need boundaries and borders that keep me safe and firmly and securely rooted and surrounded by reason, science, kindness and tolerance.
Whoever and whatever those protests were about, there was inarguably far right and even Nazi rhetoric, violence, intimidation and even shit (by that I mean real actual human feces) flinging. Any of these individually, let alone combined would be reason enough to distance and protect myself from such chaos and so many triggers.
Don’t think for a moment I don’t appreciate and even relish a good, safe and peaceful protest.
A 20 year protest from The Greenham women was documented to be what convinced Gorbachev to engage with the West and sign a nuclear disarmament agreement. Civil rights activism changed the trajectory of countless communities and lives, and is so frustratingly still necessary as divisiveness and hate seems to be gaining steam everywhere these days. I have definitely lost count of the number of climate change Friday Marches the kids and I attended. The right to stand up and say “this is important to me!” is something I cherish and will uphold for myself and even for people who disagree with me. Anti-abortion protestors have as much right to peacefully protest as I (a vehemently pro-choice advocate) do.
There was no point during these anti-mandate marches that I was even mildly moved to want to support the sentiments being strewn about the place, and more to the point, I really do not now, nor did I ever actually understand what these people were protesting for or against. Truly.
The fact that they happened at all is a clear and concerning sign that there is something deeply broken in our society here and at large. So many people feeling fearful and disenfranchised meant they were drawn to the sense of community and desire to be heard that was organised and administrated by a rabble of conspiracy theorists and scientifically illiterate community leaders. These leaders actually convinced some in the straggling crowds that tin foil hats were a necessary and reasonable weapon in the their arsenal against “the man”. There’s clearly something wrong in our world when a situation like that is allowed to erupt.
My fears for humanity and my trepidation toward our government, are far more deeply embedded in my concerns for the state of play of mental health in Aotearoa. Many of the people left at the tail end of these protests are genuinely unwell and unstable and need/deserve/require tenderness and therapy.
Now that it is coming to an end, I am left feeling concerned and saddened by the whole messy and emotionally charged situation.
I do not support the protests as I am compliant to the mandates to keep my vulnerable friends and relatives safe as the Pandemic evolves to and Endemic disease.
I do not want to hate on the protestors, and feel that there is still room for a useful dialogue with some of the more reaonable people from any point on the scale between anti-mandate protestors and those deeply disgusted by the protests. Maybe?
Or maybe we need to look deeper into the fringes of our society and find ways to reach and teach kindness, tolerance and empower people and communities to avoid rising up and/or voting against their own best interests. But then, who am I or who is anyone else to say what is in their own or anyone else’s best interest?
But maybe if we talk about what happened without anger or shame we can reach the people who are hurting. Maybe the root of the problem is and always was standard of living and the rights we all have to seek and find physical safety and comfort, and to be able to pursue something to do, something to Love and something to hope for. These are the things that gives us each a sense of purpose and connection in any society.
Maybe it had less to do with freedom and much more to do with fear and frustration?
Maybe we can do better.