It’s been an unbelievable few days and now I’ve stumbled home in a daze after shedding some tears at today’s news, I will try to collect myself here.
At the weekend we saw the massacre of 49 mainly Latinx LGBT+ people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando,FL. This act of homophobic terrorism shook the whole world and I walked down to Old Compton Street to be with the community at the vigil here in London and pay our respects.
Today one of our Labour MPs has been murdered by a man apparently shouting “Britain First” (the name of one of our openly racist and nationalist political groups). She was a passionate activist who was trying to serve people in her work. I did not know her, but friends did, and extremely high praise is all I have seen.
I can’t do any more than say my thoughts are with Jo Cox’s family, following this act of nationalist terrorism. I began to think of Yoda’s words (as per the title) as I tried to understand what had happened, and then I read the statement from her husband, Brendan (I have added emphasis):
“Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. More difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love. I and Jo’s friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo.
“Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.
“She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.
“Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full.”
This impressively resolute sentiment from someone bereaved, who clearly loved her very much, is so touching and so eloquent, so relevant, I hope we can dwell on it.
Since Sunday, Twitter has proclaimed #LoveWins and I hope it will be true. In the wake of these tragedies, I think it is more important than ever that we think about our words and our actions, and those of others, and how we can best direct important conversations constructively – towards a more loving and tolerant situation.
Toleration does not mean tolerating bigotry. Bigotry, prejudice, discrimination – these are the manifestations of anger that come from fear of differences and they cause their targets suffering every day. We cannot tolerate bigotry, but instead highlight it, discuss its dangers and impacts, and encourage consideration, understanding and support instead.
None of us is cognisant of all the tragedies happening at all times around the world; it is impossible. We relate most to those that resonate with us and our own lives and experiences – it is human. We rightly criticise our media often, but we would have neither the time nor emotional strength to function if all we ever did was learn and think of atrocities.
Don’t throw your hands up and say “We couldn’t have predicted this!” “No one could have stopped him” – yes, yes we could. Letting casual racism pass, laughing at jokes that compound victimisation of certain groups – all that contributes to and encourages an undercurrent of hate that we should be rooting out, exposing and destroying, not ignoring so that it festers. We can all play our part. Be honest about how we feel, challenge ourselves and others to do better.
Don’t wave off these hateful acts as “stupidity” or “madness”, engage.
For a less divided world
It is the EU Referendum next week in the UK, at which time I will be in Greece, somewhat appropriately. My vote is cast, by proxy. At a time when fascism seems once again to be taking hold, I think it is more important than ever to be more open, more connected, bringing in more perspectives rather than shutting them out.
I vote we stay in the European Union, because I believe we are indeed “Stronger In” and I want to see movement towards unity and co-operation, not division and isolation. I believe the EU benefits the UK, and we should be part of the conversation that directs it forwards to better things. No one ever solved problems by storming out of the room and refusing to discuss anything.
I value my friends and colleagues from all over the continent, including those who have left our home to make theirs somewhere else. I think that to leave this union would be of no benefit, and may make it more difficult for people to travel and work where they wish.
I think it would be a selfish decision and all I’ve seen from the Leave campaign is lies, scaremongering (plenty of that on the Remain side too), xenophobia and small-minded “Little England” isolationist rhetoric. I believe that self-interested right-leaning politicians have brought us to this point, and the main danger of leaving comes from a generation, after benefiting from the post-war era, that has removed opportunity and wealth from younger people, who will be the ones to deal with the fall-out should “Brexit” happen.
It’s also a question of identity. I am a citizen of England, the UK, Europe, and the World. The UK is a mishmash of many cultures – our wealth derives, still, from a past in which our ancestors travelled and stole from others, exploited them, and I think what would make us more Great would be to acknowledge that and give what we can to globalisation, rather than shy away from it.
Identity is important to us, and I have written about why I personally value labels – those that we choose for ourselves can confer stability, safety, belonging, and they can be valuable tools in addressing injustice.
While I never really felt the need to come out as such, I am bisexual and I know that if this community were more accepted, this might never have been so invisible, distressing or confusing as it was when I was younger.
When a community is targeted, as it was on Sunday in Orlando, it is important to stand together in support and defiance. This is what happened on Monday evening. While this image appears inappropriately happy, be sure that the silence that fell over thousands of people was fully respected, the loud and emotional applause very moving, and people’s tears very real.
Solidarity is a bit of a buzzword in current progressive-left-feminist sort of circles, but that’s absolutely what this was, I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced anything like it. I don’t want to ever again, of course – at least not for any similar reason. And none of it was about any one of us, but everyone together.
After the crowd dispersed and we turned to alcohol together to comfort and calm each other, we talked about what this city means to us. That we all stood in the street together for this cause, proudly and without fear, meant a lot. We know that isn’t possible everywhere. We’re in Soho, the atmosphere is only loving, and it’s sad that that’s the exception rather than the rule.
Safety isn’t so obviously important to people who have never really felt without it. One writer described why explicitly LGBT+ venues offer sanctuary, and why Sunday’s events may especially affect people you know who are not straight.
I hope to see more of the world refuse to accept or propagate the kinds of fear that led this shooter to hate himself and others so much that he decided to kill. It is not unusual for domestic abusers to commit such crimes, and instead of focusing on possible minor factors, perhaps we should focus on major ones.
Most shooters are male, all shooters use guns (for the US gun fetishists enjoying the fact that a shooting has occurred in the UK? I have no words for you, other than you disgust me) and homophobia is a common theme of religion. Women are targeted in many spheres; online, on our streets, in our homes – a woman was killed today while doing her job.
Listen to the women in your life and do your best to make them feel safe.
Motivation and explanation
We know very little about today’s murderer at present, other than these words he apparently shouted, from which we might assume he is affiliated with or a follower of BF – but even this might not be true. We don’t know [edit: but it’s looking unpleasant as suspected].
However, what I cannot stand to see is people (and media) immediately reaching for explanation of “mental illness” or lesser mental ability – in those words or otherwise (be it maniac, nutter/nutjob, madman, moron, or insanity, madness, idiocy, stupidity, or similar). I have written about the importance of language because of mental health stigma before.
But not just because it throws all of us who experience mental health problems under the bus – it’s just not logical or helpful. People with mental illness are far more likely to suffer violence than commit it, partly because of this repeated idea that mental illness causes violent instability – people lash out. In fear. In hate.
Also because mental illness is not sufficient for violence; if it were, everyone with any diagnosis would be a danger. We are not. You know this, fellow depressives, and so do most people. This is stigma, and we should be challenging it.
It is also not necessary for violence – far more violent crimes do not seem to be due to people with mental illness. So stop saying this. Just because you can’t imagine someone doing something awful without it, that probably either means you don’t understand what mental illness is like (and that’s true of people who experience one but not the others, too), and you don’t want to imagine that you or anyone like you could do such a thing. Understandable, just not sensible. Dangerous.
…while treatment can prevent some interpersonal violence attributed to mental illness, most of this violence is not caused by mental illness…
Please read this in Time and consider your words. With support and medical services chronically underfunded, we cannot continue to devalue the people who need them by unfairly demonising them.
It is Pride month, and I am grateful for every rainbow flag I see, not just for taking part but for honouring the victims of the Pulse shooting. To steal a meme-quote, Don’t be angry there’s no straight Pride – be thankful you don’t need one.
I do not really believe in national pride – it is a happy accident I was born somewhere that means I am relatively free and wealthy, and no one is persecuted for being British (despite what the likes of Farage would have you believe). But I am proud of our culture – much of it from other peoples and places – of our music, our humour, our ridiculous quirks and the relationships we have with other countries.
Today I lost some of that pride, because hate won; it claimed a life. This never should have happened. I hope it never happens again.
The best we can do, I believe, is refuse to tolerate this hate. Expose bigotry. Educate. Support each other when we have the opportunity. Change the conversation and move it forward, stop sweeping dangerous ideas under the carpet because we think we’re past it.
Remembrance Day always falls on or near my birthday. We seem to have forgotten what the EU was built for, what it rose from – hate and suffering. The kind of sentiment and narrative that preceded these events has been disturbingly common in recent US and UK politics – this is extremely worrying. I hope we can overcome it.
Less of that, please. More thought. More love.
This is maybe 3 or 4 posts in one, I have travels to recount and other far more positive things, so hopefully I will get to that soon.