The original title of this post said ‘crazy’ where it now says ‘terrible’. I never believed that this attack was the result of a mental illness. Nor did I intend to stigmatize the mentally ill by using the word crazy that way. I use that word all the time to describe things that don’t make sense, and have done so forever.
But two things have happened this week to make me rethink my choice of words. First, a bunch of people are complaining that the mental health system should have locked up the terrorist even if the criminal system couldn’t. That’s … I would have said crazy … ridiculous. Second, Judith Collins, the (overweight) leader of the opposition party called Siouxsie Wiles, a (overweight) COVID epidemiologist and media star, a ‘big fat hypocrite’ and the whole thing got turned into fat shaming. I don’t think that was Judith’s point or her intention. I think she just meant ‘a really really hypocritical hypocrite’. But still: there is fat shaming in the world and those of us with access to the media should go out of our way to not do that. And there is mental illness shaming in the world and that’s not ok either.
So. Back to the original post…
On Friday afternoon a man well known to the authorities as an ISIS sympathizer walked into his local supermarket (a few miles from me), picked up a knife from the display, and started stabbing people. He was shot dead by undercover police less than a minute later. Three victims still in critical condition.
We don’t know the whole story yet, but it was really something to see the distraught Jacinda Arden speaking to the press a few hours later. Apparently they didn’t have a legal way to keep the guy locked up, or deport him, so he had armed round-the-clock surveillance. Those surveillance agents did the nearly unthinkable yesterday… they heard shouting and ran in and shot a man dead, in the supermarket in broad daylight surrounded by civilians, in a scene that must have seemed possible but impossible while they sat outside his house these last several weeks.
I suppose these stories play out all the time, sometimes with much worse outcomes. In the US, when in-home surveillance isn’t enough, there’s Guantanamo and whatever network of black sites. In Russia, China, North Korea and other places we’re conditioned to be afraid of, we imagine an even bigger network of options for dealing with would-be terrorists and enemies of the state. In the war-torn Middle East and the parts of Africa where government doesn’t really work, I guess there’s a scary guy with a rifle and a machete and jumper cables and bolt cutters. Or a set of tires and a gas can.
But here in NZ, it seems there’s just the PM and the Police Commissioner, shaken but resolute. They’d struck an unsatisfying balance of protecting the scumbag’s rights and protecting public safety, and now they’d seen their plans go badly wrong.
From what we’ve heard, the cops did an amazing job. The gun control laws make me feel safer. And the country’s willingness to keep trying even on somebody who seemed incorrigible gives me hope.