How Kiwis Went From Decent To Disgusting.
Jacinda didn't let NZ down, we let her down.
Yesterday afternoon I spoke to my Dad, who’s in hospital. The latest update was that he has Covid. He’s going to be in isolation for the next five days, in a room with other people who have tested positive, and no visitors.
That’s the worst part. My Mum, who is ever present beside him and cares for him so much, not being able to be there in those coming days.
On the phone I could hear they were anxious. I tried to lighten thing a little. Dad asked about my experiences with it - I’ve had it three times despite taking all the sensible precautions and injections.
I joked that he had an advantage as one of the key things to avoid was rushing back to regular activity when you feel better, but soon find you should still be resting. His advantage being that he currently can’t walk, therefore was in no danger of doing so. This is the sort of thing that passes for humour in my family - well, from me at least.
Truth is I was really worried. Dad’s doing pretty well all things considered. When I go and see my folks and we talk politics, or sometimes rugby, he is as knowledgeable, imaginative, sensitive, and witty as ever. Sure perhaps the odd punch line gets lost before delivery, or a particular word might elude him - but hey, who doesn’t have that happen?
We don’t talk about Covid like we used to. Not my family, we do - it’s still there you know? I mean the country. Many have moved on and left that in the past - they don’t really want to know about it any more. But despite their lack of interest there is a really bad wave of Covid in Aotearoa at the moment, one we’d desperately been hoping Dad would avoid.
Because the truth is that although Dad’s doing well for his age it doesn’t change the fact that he’s 83 years old, and was already in hospital for another matter. Suffice to say that adding Covid on top is pretty far from ideal. But it could’ve been a lot worse.
It would’ve been a lot worse if he had gotten Covid three years ago. Before the antivirals, before the boosters, before the vaccines, and when the earlier strains seemed much more severe. I’m worried about him but I’m confident he’ll be ok, whereas I’m really not sure if he would’ve been three years previously.
Like many others at this time of year I am grateful, for the fourth year in a row, that I will be seeing all my family at Christmas. That I haven’t lost anyone close to Covid. But it’s not just luck is it?
The fact that so many people will be at family gatherings again this year, who might not have been. Whether you like it or not, and some seem reluctant to admit it, or certainly to give due credit, that’s down to the way the Labour government prioritised people over profits. More than anyone else, it’s down to one person - Jacinda Ardern.
After the call I was feeling pretty emotional. Worried about how the next week will be for my folks and feeling a bit helpless. I jumped online to distract myself, listened to some music, had a few tears to be honest. Put on some heavier music instead and checked out the news. A headline jumped out at me.
I knew what the article was about, I wrote similar newsletters myself following Jacinda’s resignation at the start of the year. There is no issue with the article, it is an important thing to discuss. But something really didn’t sit right about the title.
It made it sound as if Jacinda had done something wrong. I thought, at the very least, if I’d written it I would’ve put quotation marks around the word “witch”, making it clear a deranged person was being quoted, rather than any other inference.
I should say, I’ve no idea if the person who wrote the article also produced the headline. Sometimes I see a terrible headline for a good article and I think - I doubt the person who wrote the article came up with that.
The more I thought about that title, the more it seemed wrong. There seem to have been so many negative headlines about female politicians in recent years, and certainly none more so than our former Prime Minister. What was bugging me was that the headline made it sound as if Jacinda had done something wrong, that she had let the country down somehow. When in fact it was the other way around - the country let Jacinda down.
I popped a post on Facebook and similar on Twitter expressing that. It seemed to mirror the way others were feeling.
A friend who never posts on things political commented “Yeah, I was talking about this today with a friend, how Jacinda and Labour saved so many people during Covid, and that's the thanks she gets. It's pretty disgusting alright.”
But as much as some were expressing sadness, or saying how unfair it was, there was also a lot of anger. Not only directed at the ghastly people who said such deranged things about Jacinda, and continue to do so, but also at the media who made things worse by amplifying those voices and constantly finding the negative in a government than had a hell of a lot of positives.
Another friend commented “One News could ask ‘Why did we set out to destroy a Prime Minister with non-stop vicious attacks?’”, and another “One News, New Zealand’s biggest buzzkill. Helping Kiwis not appreciate anything for six years.”
Some people mentioned awful, or even simply absurd things they’d seen. For example, “I just read a comment from someone who says Jacinda's net worth went from $800,000 to $25m in a year because she invested in the vaccines she forced on us! And it was getting agreement! Honestly, the mind boggles!”
Sadly much of the vitriol was of course much worse than that nonsense. There were horrific things said, with threats, and the most revolting misogyny you’ve ever seen. One of our greatest ever leaders, a person who when thrust into incredibly challenging, unforeseen, circumstances reacted calmly, and kindly, showing great humanity, was subjected to what I think must be the most vicious attacks ever directed at a single person in this country.
And the attacks weren’t simply out of frustration with lockdowns, or MIQ, or anything like that. They were personally targeting Jacinda as a woman, and her family, and I have never felt so ashamed of my country in all my life.
Think about it. This last election we saw had unpleasant moments and absolutely showed that people had frustrations. One News demonstrated that in their nightly segment on “moaning bastards who hate Labour”, purporting to be a vox pop.
But we didn’t see the outright viciousness and nastiness with Chippy as Labour leader, as we had with Jacinda, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out why.
We can’t just ignore that hideous behaviour, or the demented people who said such vile things, and made threats against someone who’d had the temerity to try and save their lives. Because what happens the next time?
I look around at young, up and coming, female politicians who like Jacinda are driven by wanting to help people in this country. They are intelligent, and principled, but the thought of them moving into leadership roles and being subjected to the sick and depraved attacks that Jacinda received is ghastly.
It makes me think - you couldn’t reasonably ask those young women to take on such a role - it’s too much. You wouldn’t wish it upon them. And that is an incredibly sad indictment on our country.
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Could Jacinda and the last government have done things better? Sure, in hindsight there will always be lessons to learn, things you might do slightly differently. But in the moment, with the way they responded to events and outbreaks as they occurred, I can’t really fault them.
They did their best and they prioritised us. For them to be subjected to such attacks from individuals, or receive constantly negative news coverage, was grossly unfair.
Fairness is something I learned about from my Dad, and my Mum. They were pretty big on it, and I thought most other Kiwis were too. But the way Jacinda Ardern has been treated by many in this country is way beyond unfairness. It has been sickening.
I’m grateful to Jacinda for what she did, that she kept people like my parents safe while the science caught up. I’m grateful for all the kind and decent Kiwis out there who are feeling the same way as I am.
But I feel a great sadness over the way many of the people in this beautiful country have behaved. Disagreeing on political actions is one thing, but vile threats and abuse, while claiming to be the party in the right, are both shameful and unacceptable. And that’s the real story.
Most of all though I’m just worried about my Dad. I hope his night hasn’t been too bad and that the days ahead won’t be either. Take care all of you lovely people.