DIVISIVENESS is a political technique for those who value winning above country or decency.

During the 2008 campaign for President, Senator John McCain was faced by a woman who sought to disparage McCain's opponent. "I don't trust Obama, he's not American. He's a Muslim," she said.

McCain stopped her, assured her on national TV that Obama was a good American, a family man just like himself, and their differences were on policy, not loyalty — an unselfish call for national unity beyond political differences, concern for the welfare of country above immediate advantage for himself.

In contrast, Donald Trump has consistently sown division, winning a loyal vocal minority at the cost of both national unity and national honour.

Laurel Stowell's report (Chronicle, July 5) of three local politicians who plan to vote against the End of Life Choice Bill showed the spirit of Trump is very much alive in New Zealand, especially in the National Party and particularly in our MP, Harete Hipango.


On the one hand I'm glad she has revealed herself and stopped waffling, taking both sides of an issue, as she did on medical cannabis. But the side she chose and her rationale are even more concerning. She's opposed to choice at dying because it is "eurocentric". That's further elaborated with reference to standards of community involvement versus individual choice, a point of view elaborated earlier by Dame Tariana Turia as distinctly Māori and one that undergirds opposition to the individual choice inherent in the proposed bill.

To these tired ears "eurocentrism" is as racialised a dogwhistle as was Don Brash's "One nation, one law" speech at Orewa. Racialised politics, whether it comes from Māori or Pākehā, is deplorable and divisive. While I don't believe Harete is a racist — she has roots in both Māori and Pākehā communities — her "eurocentric" divisive comment gives comfort to those who really are racist.

Divisiveness has been National's tactic ever since Orewa: Simon Bridges telling Māori there's no benefit for them in legalising cannabis or trying to pull apart the Greens with a trumped-up offer of an environmentalist National Party.

Harete Hipango carries on the divisiveness. Her rationale for opposing individual choice in dying rests upon Māori values. Good enough. But imposing those values on the rest of us is tyranny of the minority, which is no better than colonialist tyranny of the majority.

To live together in a pluralistic society requires mutual respect and Hipango, in dividing us, fails to respect the values she denigrates with the epithet "eurocentric".

MP Ian McKelvie's objections to the bill are just as odious. He claims he's motivated not by religion but by his concern for the disabled whom he falsely claims would be forced to die under the bill. Bullshit!

Jay Kuten
Jay Kuten

Ever since my unwilling induction into the society of the "alternatively abled" — to quote my son, Tony — I take particular umbrage with those cis-abled opponents of this bill who would speak for me, those who would use me and my kind as political props for their anti-choice agenda. When I hear of their saccharine, counterfeit concerns for my well-being, their saving me from a false fate they've invented, I'm tempted to use my cane on them in the appropriate place.

Labour MP Adrian Ruruawhe may still be open-minded on the bill. The true arrogance and condescension of Hipango and McKelvie is expressed in their opposition to a referendum giving citizens a voice in the choice of their dying — surely the most important inherent human right in a democracy. The excuse is that you and I would find it far too complicated to make a judgment. We wouldn't be able to educate ourselves sufficiently to make a sound decision. Yeah, right.


From their lofty perch McKelvie and Hipango, who obviously are smarter than the rest of us, should be left to make these decisions. After patting us on our collective heads we're supposed to go and vote.

I do know where my vote is going. And it's not to support authoritarian arrogance and divisive Trumpian politics in New Zealand.

•Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.