I’ve been an American expat in New Zealand for seven years, and I’ve never been more grateful for this country welcoming me with open arms, especially now amid the COVID 19 pandemic. In a few short weeks, I will qualify for permanent residency, which I can’t wait for.
I love everything about New Zealand.
From the wild landscapes to the quirky culture to the DIY friendly attitude, it’s a great place to live. No wonder it consistently ranks among one of the happiest countries in the world. But unfortunately, as we sink into the total shitshow that is 2020, the stark contrast between my birthplace and where I call home now has never been more apparent.
Kindness. I can’t think of a more straightforward way to put it.
Last Friday, an NBC correspondent asked Trump, “What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?” to which he replied, “I say that you’re a terrible reporter, that’s what I say.”
What. An. Asshole.
Even seeing it now I can feel my face flush red with anger. I feel so ashamed of where I’m from, and I’m terrified for my friends and family in the US. You deserve so much better. It shouldn’t take a pandemic and a failure of the federal government to bring fundamental human rights to a country that once was “the leader of the free world.”
Cruel, petulant, and heartless.
This is not how you lead. This is not how you talk to people. This is not how you comfort a nation of 330 million human beings who, you know, have hearts, fears, worries, and families to think about. Where is the respect? Where is his dignity?
What frightens me, even more, are all people who agree with him. It’s reflective of how selfish the American culture has become (has it always been that way and I’m only seeing it now that I’ve left?) There is no place in this world for that “me, me ME” attitude. We have to look out for one another. Politics don’t matter right now; nobody wants people to get sick and die.
Damnit, I’m furious all over again writing this.
In contrast, our excellent PM, Jacinda Ardern, has been comforting and reassuring Kiwis almost daily, live-streaming, and answering questions, including running a press conference just for kids around COVID 19. She even does spontaneous FB lives from her sofa in sweatpants after putting her toddler to bed.
Each time she addresses us, you can see the toll this experience is taking on her face. She didn’t sign up for this, but she is leading us the best way possible. Her hope and belief in keeping Kiwis safe above all else ring through every word she speaks. Compassion and understanding radiate from her. She talks to us with clear plans and objectives of what we need to do to get through this, usually with scientists by her side.
Jacinda is the kind of figure you want to comfort you in times of crisis. We are all facing an unknown future, and it’s scary.
And every single time Jacinda speaks to the New Zealand community, she reminds us to be kind and to support one another. There is even a page on the NZ government response website to COVID 19 about kindness.
And she reminds us to be strong. Acknowledging what she is asking all of us is massive, she wants us to unite against spreading COVID 19 by staying at home.
To be honest, considering what humanity has gone through over the millennia, it’s not that hard.
Staying home is easy. Being kind is harder. And being kind to yourself? Well, that’s a challenge, especially for people like me.
We are facing unprecedented times (to echo every politician on earth), and it’s pretty freaking scary. If we aren’t careful, we can be consumed by terror, fear, anxiety, depression, and all those other nasty thoughts that like to lurk in the dark recesses of our minds.
But it’s never been more critical to share compassion, empathy, and love. It’s what makes us human, after all. Kindness is a choice.
As we move into four weeks (minimum) of home isolation here in New Zealand, Jacinda’s message of kindness couldn’t be more poignant. We are being tested.
Now is the time to work harder than ever at being considerate, helpful, and selfless. Remember to think of others and not just ourselves. Perhaps we aren’t staying at home because we are worried we will get sick, but rather remember we are doing it for everyone else.
If we all stop moving, COVID 19 will stop moving. It’s pretty easy yet tough.
Now is the time to think beyond ourselves, to think of our collective communities and groups. It’s not about “me” anymore, it’s about everyone. Make your decisions with that in mind. I chose kindness. Don’t be an asshole.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a heartless world. I hope and believe we will come out of the other side of this stronger and better. Kia kaha, as we say here in New Zealand, which means “stay strong” in Māori.
Be kind, be compassionate, be helpful, and supportive. Above all, be human. And for god’s sake, stop trying to make Instagram Lives a thing. It’s so annoying. And stay the fuck at home. Deal?
How are you coping during this new future we’re facing? How are you staying kind to yourself and others? Spill!