Lizzie Marvelly is a musician, writer and activist, she writes columns for Weekend Herald.

Lizzie Marvelly: Can love Trump hate?

State Highway 2 between Miranda and Waitakaruru; who knows what we will find on New Zealand's quiet highways? Photo / Glenn Jeffrey
State Highway 2 between Miranda and Waitakaruru; who knows what we will find on New Zealand's quiet highways? Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

I hope we will resist the temptation to 'other' each other, and that we'll build bridges rather than walls, writes Lizzie Marvelly.

If there's one thing we can probably all agree on, it's that the slogan "love trumps hate" turned out to be about as useful as tits on a bull. A truer statement may have been "Trump loves hate" - especially when it's presented in 140 characters during the early hours of the morning.

Whether the Trump presidency is conducted via Twitter or traditional, more presidential channels, it seems clear that love is on the wane in the United States.

Perhaps not all forms of love. Heterosexual love performed during wedlock seems to be on the up, as is love for small clusters of cells embedded in the bodies of women who are not particularly interested in playing the role of walking incubators.

The idea of love means different things to different people, though marrying the concepts of "love" and "different" appears to have fallen dramatically out of fashion.

On this inaugural day of the Trump regime, however, it's not love, nor the United States that I'm particularly interested in. In fact, if there were a way to mute any mention of the new leader of the free world, I'd be queuing to sign up. His inauguration does, though, prompt a number of questions. Like, "how do you translate 'the White House' into Russian?"

I'm sorry. I couldn't resist.

Half-amusing, half-terrifying jokes aside, the questions I'm pondering are applicable much closer to home. What can we learn from this? Could it happen here? And, at the top of the list, how well do we actually know each other?

If the response to my last column is anything to go by, the answer to the last question may just be "not well". The distance between some Kiwi farmers and city-dwellers, both literal and figurative, may be a lot wider than we imagined.

I'm hardly innocent. I'm ashamed to admit that until Monday I didn't know that Turua existed. I'd never heard of Waitakaruru either, until a chance detour diverted me around a traffic incident on State Highway 2 on my way back to the big smoke from Mt Maunganui.

How many of these small villages and towns have I never heard of, and never dedicated a single thought to? Likely too many to count. When the names Ward and Cheviot hit the headlines immediately after the Kaikoura earthquake, I had to consult Google Maps to figure out where they were.

I'm sure that there are wonderful people who live in Turua, Waitakaruru, Ward and Cheviot. As Kiwis, we pride ourselves on a certain national personality that includes fairness, friendliness and frankness. In an increasingly individualistic world, however, it's becoming easier and easier to remain firmly ensconced in our comfort zones, surrounded by people who look, think and act just like we do.

And as a country, how do we know who we are if we don't know each other? How often would a labourer from Manurewa have a barbecue with a Gore real estate agent? When was the last time a Pakeha Remuera banker went to stay at a marae in Gisborne?

Here in Aotearoa we must strive for an understanding of our diversity to prevent us from falling into a similar partisan trap.

Human beings are tribal creatures, and you could argue that New Zealanders form one tribe, united by a love of the All Blacks and L&P. Such arguments seem overly simplistic to me. It's not our celebration of similarity that defines us, but our willingness to understand our differences.

If there's one thing the US election illustrated perfectly, it's the explosive outcome tribalism can produce. The "them and us" mentality is now so deeply ingrained in American society it's difficult to envisage a future in which American unity is a feature - unless the American tribe is called upon to unite against an external "them".

Here in Aotearoa we must strive for an understanding of our diversity to prevent us from falling into a similar partisan trap. When we disagree, we need to work harder to understand our varying viewpoints rather than resorting to shouting each other down.

Universal agreement will never be achievable, or particularly desirable, but in the process of understanding we may surprise ourselves by discovering a dormant sense of empathy.

The true enemy is not a person or a group - whether their ancestors came here from the Pacific, the United Kingdom, or the Middle East; whether they vote left or right; whether they're gay, straight, bisexual or trans - but prejudice itself. It's also a valuable tool for those who wish to garner support from one tribe or another.

It is already being used by New Zealand politicians to try to win votes, and it's not yet February.

This election year, whether we're from Turua or Auckland, Bluff or Rotorua, we need to get to know our neighbours. As I drove through the North Island over the holiday period, I noticed the long-closed factories and mills in a number of small towns. I saw the RSAs and the marae, the Four Squares and the country schools, and I wondered about the people who frequented them.

I hope, as this election year wears on, that I'll get the chance to understand them better. I hope that our differences will provide us with new and interesting perspectives. I hope that we will resist the temptation to "other" each other, and that we'll build bridges rather than walls.

The number of tribes living in this land is irrelevant. What matters is that we can work together.

- NZ Herald

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Lizzie Marvelly is a musician, writer and activist, she writes columns for Weekend Herald.

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