Today, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she refuses to use the name of the shooter who killed 50 people at two mosques in the city of Christchurch last Friday.
“He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety and that is why you will never hear me mention his name,” she said in the March 19 speech to her nation’s Parliament. “He is a terrorist, he is a criminal, he is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless.”
YES! The shooter doesn’t deserve to be remembered. Let’s remember the victims and honor their lives and their contributions to the world. Read the articles that tell stories of the victims. (The youngest victim was only 3 years old. Three!) Remember their successes, dreams and actions. Read their loved ones’ sentiments.
Think of the victims, not the shooter who sought notoriety so deeply that he documented his killing spree with a camera and streamed it live on Facebook. He also posted an 87-page manifesto of hatred against immigrants and Muslims. Obviously, this person felt like he had something to say and wanted to share his mission and ideology with the masses. Let’s not give him the recognition he feels he deserved. He blew that chance when he viciously murdered others. Let the experts analyze his background and his motives if they need to do so for research purposes, but as a society, let’s blot out his name for future generations.
March 12 marked the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web and three days later the world witnessed what happens when evil uses the Web as a weapon. And it’s not only the shooter himself – although social media platforms said they removed the original video as soon as they discovered it, so many people made copies of it and shared it that it was difficult for the social media companies to ensure that all the versions of the video were removed.
A connection to Purim
Here we are less than a week after the attack preparing to celebrate the holiday of Purim, a holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews. Haman was full of hatred and planned to exterminate all the Jews in the Persian kingdom, just as the New Zealand shooter was filled with hatred and wanted to exterminate Muslims and immigrants.
When we read the Purim story in synagogue (in the Megillah, or Scroll of Esther), there is a custom is to make lots of noise whenever Haman’s name is mentioned in the story.
As with many Jewish customs, there are several articles explaining why people do and don’t practice this custom. I was taught that we make noise to blot out Haman’s name, symbolically blotting out the evil that he represents.
I find this particularly fitting in this current-day example of evil, where the head of a country that witnessed such a horrific event pledges to, in a sense, blot out the name of the evil perpetrator.
More terror this week
Two days after the New Zealand attack, another terror attack happened in Israel. Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, a 47-year-old father of 12 children ages 1-20, died after being shot by a terrorist who stabbed a 19-year-old IDF soldier and stole his gun. Reports say that the rabbi, despite having been shot in the head and neck after driving by, turned his car around to try to fire at the attacker to prevent him from hurting others.
Unfortunately, these are not the only stories about evil acts happening in our world. Fortunately, there are lots of beautiful stories, too, about people coming together despite their differences in religion, background, etc. and showing solidarity with others. Those are the stories that I wish could dominate our news feed.