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Marc My Words: Seeing The Stars In Sorrow



++Marc's RADIO show 96.9FM. Christmas special on Monday 20 Dec 1-2pm.

++Marc Alexander's CHCH Christmas Party at 173 Cashel St. Wednesday 22 Dec.

4.30-7pm. RSVP: (03) 374-6804 or email

MARC MY WORDS - 16 December 2004

Sometimes it is in the darkness of sorrow that we are able to see the stars

If you are enthusiastic and purposeful, each year starts out as an adventure full of promise, challenges and surprises. As I see it, it is like standing on the edge of a precipice anticipating a journey that demands several things; knowing who we are, avoiding a slavish adherence to doctrines that would shackle us, and all the while understanding that our biggest demon can be ourselves.

In many ways this has been a hard year.

Over the last twelve months it has been an enormous privilege to travel up and down the country and meet good decent people who have shown incredible courage in the face of the tragedies that have befallen them. Often I come face to face with more heartbreak and pain than I would have imagined possible, and I can't deny this has taken its toll on me. Most of my encounters have been the result of my work in law and order issues and sometimes I feel ill equipped emotionally to deal with these.

At times life in Parliament feels some airbrushed imitation of reality that betrays the meaning of what we actually do. Ordinary life becomes detached and in many ways we are cosseted from the drama of middle New Zealand. This is a reason for the passage of so many impractical laws and a predisposition to view life as a management exercise. It is less about what people need and much more about the internal appetites of the bureaucratic process. It is a well fed lie.

From South Otago to Auckland, the East Cape, Hamilton and Christchurch, there have been too many families who have lost loved ones to violence. I have been an advocate at Parole Board hearings; or revisited cases from years ago and found appropriate information to help with the preparation of Victim Impact statements. I have always tried to be compassionate, composed and professional but whether successful or not, I have to confess that each time I die a little inside. I see in their pain a glimpse of just how much the lives of others have been torn apart. One result is that the moments I spend with my own family become all the more precious; I know they pay a price as well.

Last Labour Weekend I was looking forward to spending time with my son as I had been away so often in the weeks before. A phone call changed all that. Two youths who had brutally killed a young man were coming up for sentencing. The young man's parents needed help to include a number of key pieces of information in their Victim Impact statement. My son was too young to understand, and that saddened me, but I had to go. When I returned home a day later I still had mine, but their son was gone forever. That thought alone put things into perspective.

The hours I spent with them touched me to the core.they lost their son to brutality perpetrated by two young thugs. Despite the prison sentence that awaited them, their parents still had them to love. And one day they will walk free. But the young man they chose to kill will never have the chance to see his family..listen to music.hear the birds sing in the morning.wet his feet at the beach or feel the rain on his cheek. His mother, stepfather and brother lost their own flesh and blood. Their courage is beyond my understanding and has reduced me to tears. I have been like that many times this year.

In a similar way, others have shared their stories and struggles. They have all shown courage. You can see that I have become close to some remarkable people whose strength has humbled me, and who have inspired me beyond words. Sadly I have not met them on a good day; we have met because they are victims of crime. Despite what has happened they are not beaten. I never cease to marvel at that.

But I have become more cynical. The façade of civility in our country no longer deceives me. Every place I go reminds me of another offence.another family that has had its wings clipped by crime and violence. What I have learnt from all of them is that if life shrinks or expands in proportion to courage, their lives have become vast. They reflect a vision of life that surmounts the harshest of blows. They have not allowed themselves to be candles blown out by the winds of frustration, anger and bitterness but rather have become bonfires that dare the world to be just. This does not mean that they no longer feel sadness or loss.but they fight on so that the same should not happen to others. In one sense they are living on behalf of their loved one. It is both their indomitable spirit and their capacity to care that has so powerfully touched me.

Whatever my office staff or I have been able to do to help them, it cannot compare with their gift to us. We often think that we learn merely with our minds and from our actions.but this year I learnt the most valuable lesson of all: you really only learn when you learn with your heart, driven by enthusiasm and passion.

There are some things governments should not attempt to do; one is to intrude on our principles and ethics. It is we the people who must be responsible to put the civil into civil society. In a larger sense this development is embodied in the tension between the liberty of individuals on the one hand, and the authority of the State on the other. We all have a choice. We can either be consumed by the mechanics of process (accompanied by an increasing reliance on legislation) - as a result becoming more distant and disconnected; or we can reach out to our fellow Kiwis with empathy and compassion.

These are like two warring factions within each one of us. Christmas might just be a good time to decide which one we choose to nurture.

I wish all my readers a merry Christmas and a safe and wonderful New Year of promise.


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