Waitangi before dawn.
A brief postscript to yesterday’s newsletter…
Watching the predawn speeches just now, the reverence of those speaking and the respectful nature of those listening under umbrellas in the dark. I felt a great sadness at the words from Christopher Luxon last evening still in my head.
The singing in the dark accompanied by a single guitar and that so familiar strumming. Smiling pakeha faces too, respectful and feeling the emotion and dignity in the words and the waiata.
I found myself feeling very emotional seeing the faces of those who have risen early, dressed well, to participate in this most important of events in our land. The expression of determination from Kiri Allan, the mana, and maturity beyond her young years. A great leader of the future.
Andrew Little, always so serious looking, clearly feeing the aroha being sung about - I couldn’t help thinking of Jacinda at that moment. Dame Jenny Shipley there too looking elegant and recognised by those speaking.
Chris Hipkins followed the prayers speaking of trust in one another and commitment to knowing more about each another. His Te Reo is not as strong as it might be but it was genuine and well intentioned and any imperfections didn’t matter.
James Shaw spoke sensitively as he always does, clearly aware of the sacredness of the moment. Some might not like that word of description but sacred is how it felt watching. I don’t mean in a religious sense although there were many words of prayer. I mean in terms of what this represents to the heart of our nation.
There were speeches in the first languages of MPs from different backgrounds, or those who have come to this country to build a new life here. Showing their respect, their place too in this land and in this special morning in our nation.
Meng Foon was an example to us all of what we should be learning and taking pride in. What can be achieved, speaking Te Reo as fluently and beautifully as any native speaker.
Even David Seymour managed to enter the spirit of things, injecting a little humour into events in his speech. It was respectful of the situation and he looked, regardless of anything else, pleased to be there. Despite his views it was right that he was there.
No Christopher Luxon though, he didn’t show up alongside the other leaders. With the respected dignitaries, the people in the crowd in jackets in the early morning cool. It fell to Dr Shane Reti to say some brief words on behalf of National.
When I first heard Christopher Luxon’s mean spirited and heartless words early last evening I couldn’t quite believe what he had said. This man who will have been well aware at the hurt and outrage his words would cause went ahead and said them anyway.
He will have been aware. He knew how he was being scrutinised in relation to his comments on co-governance at Rātana, the way his party have criticised it and enflamed the worst in our nation for votes and power.
But they, he and his professional speech writers, decided rather than pulling back from that message they would double down and rub people’s faces in it. Even as they met in positivity, unity, and love at the birthplace of our nation.
I felt angry.
Sickened at the grossness of his words, this man who would lead our nation.
How dare he slap the faces of those whose guest he is? How dare he take this time of our nation coming together to shove his message of small-minded, poorly-informed, bigotry in the faces of all in Aotearoa? As he smirks wondering how many more votes his vile words might win as they prick the ears of those they’re aimed at - the other New Zealand.
I thought - this man is simply not fit to lead this country. It will be a disaster for us as a people and set us back decades.
Not because of his selfish policies that focus on benefiting those with the most and reduce the safety net protecting those with the least - along with the public services that we all need. No, his disrespect for this sacred moment and event in our history. Again - I make no apology for that word - sacred.
I thought - I cannot imagine anyone less suited to lead and guide us as a people.
Now this morning, as I watch they are slowly singing Whaakaria Mai, he couldn’t even be bothered to get out of bed and attend with all the other leaders. Maybe he had something else to do on this birthdate of our nation, this man who would rule us? Maybe he had another engagement.
Or maybe his media people have told him the reaction was stronger than they had calculated in their meticulous planning of his “little experiment” speech.
The national anthem plays and is sung in Te Reo and English. Our Prime Minister and Governor General looking like leaders and Christopher Luxon absent - this man who would lead New Zealand.
And I despised him - the coward.
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Since Christopher Luxon emerged on the political scene he has been spoken of by those who would like National back in power as the new John Key. The successful businessman in a suit who will finally give National a leader to take on Labour, after a run of disastrous leaders - all of whom look quite good about now.
And I thought - he isn’t the new John Key, Christopher Luxon is the new Don Brash!
But perhaps that isn’t fair.
I don't think even Don Brash would have called the Treaty of Waitangi a "little experiment" at Waitangi celebrations.
The famous flag pole is lit up on the screen, the site of protests in previous years, as we wait for the sun to rise.
Chris Hipkins does a low key interview as we wait, relaxed thoughtful and friendly. He speaks of being on a journey together and needing to plot a course where everyone does well. Of his commitment to kids learning Te Reo. Relaxed and good humoured it was perfect for the mood of the moment.
The clouds began to lighten and I felt my heart lighten too - thank you Chippy.
Have a fabulous Waitangi day all of you lovely people and Happy Birthday to my Dad, 84 today.
Thankyou for sharing our Waitangi Dawn so sensitively.
"But they, he and his professional speech writers, decided rather than pulling back from that message they would double down and rub people’s faces in it. Even as they met in positivity, unity, and love at the birthplace of our nation.
I felt angry." Me too.