It turns out some things are more important than a pandemic. Protest is more important. The thousands of New Zealanders who marched last weekend in protest at the killing of George Floyd in America were undoubtedly admirers of Jacinda Ardern and knew they were breaking her restrictions on mass gatherings. They decided it was more important to say black lives matter and she didn't try to dissuade them.
I think quite a few things are more important than a pandemic, such as a functioning economy, the future for people who run a small business in that economy and the people they employ. I think those things counted for too little when Covid-19 appeared but we are not quite ready for that discussion yet.
Racial tension in America certainly matters. We live in a cultural orbit of that great country and we don't have to pretend to share its problem, as many of the demonstrators did, to care about what happens there. We belong to an Anglo-American family of nations that feel an affinity deeper than international commitments. We're more like siblings than allies and, as siblings do, we sometimes think we understand a brother or sister better than they understand themselves.
When I watched those policemen holding Floyd down, one keeping a knee on his neck, I saw scared white men. I don't think Americans realise they are an unusually fearful people.
Every time I read of these racial tragedies in the United States I'm reminded of an experience in Los Angeles in 1992. I was in a group of journalists, academics and diplomats hosted by the US Information Agency to observe the presidential election that year. We got to LA at the end of the tour and two of us were keen to see the South Central district of the city that had been the scene of race riots after police were acquitted of the brutal beating of a black man, Rodney King.
With a gap in our schedule the following day we made our request to the guide. Impossible, he said, too dangerous. Nothing we had asked of him in five cities over the previous four weeks had been impossible and none of America's problems had been concealed from us. Quite the reverse, those State Department-funded visits served up generous helpings of American guilt.
We told him we were going. No journalist in LA at that time could ignore that place that had been blazing on the world's television screens a few weeks earlier. The next day he sat between us in the back seat of a taxi to go where he admitted he had never been.
Soon we passed the charred remains of a liquor store on a street corner and, some way down the road, a burned-out shop. We slowly drove through a grid of streets lined with small and tidy bungalows. No broken windows, no shuttered shops, no surly youths hanging out on the corners. Everybody must have been at work.
In the car none of us said very much. The USIA man said nothing. I wondered if he was thinking what I was thinking. Here was an educated American liberal - as far from a redneck as you could meet - and he'd been afraid to come here. I hoped he was wondering how many other "no go" areas of American cities might be no worse than this.
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Some are, of course. I'd driven into Harlem once and quickly drove out again. But even there, I think my fear was the main problem. Scared white men are the scourge of American race relations. That's not an original suggestion, it's a common theme of American novels. But it doesn't feature in their journalism.
This week, as always after these shocking events, America's best media were discussing racism in terms of white guilt rather than white fear. Both may be a legacy of slavery but fear is more difficult to address.
It is easier to ascribe racial prejudice to assumed superiority, an explanation that is horribly comforting for many scared whites. It is harder to discuss fear because it demands a reason and there are no respectable reasons. In any case, black Americans will fairly say it's no comfort to them if unreasonable fear explains the deadly outcomes.
But the essential first step in solving any problem is to understand it. If white Americans could acknowledge their fear, they would be well on the way to doing something about it and there will be plenty of black Americans who are more than ready to help them. It's a country of nice people, white and black. Few nationalities are nicer to meet.
If they can somehow get to know each other better, mix more, go into "no-go" zones and fix the ignorance that breeds fear, America can change.