The media have bashed us over the head so many times with the words ‘terror’ and ‘terrorist’ it is hard not to immediately picture an ISIS jihadi machete-wielding in a screenshot from a beheading video; the innocent British citizen knelt below him upon desolate miles of sand. The following morning’s right-wing headline reads ‘God is great…?’ in a sarcastic twist that seeks to place the blame upon Islam. Yet the left-wing headlines argue the opposite, defending the Muslim faith and our fellow British-Muslim families, friends, or neighbours, who rightfully practise their religion and cause no harm to others. After all, the Quran actually condemns murder. Not to mention the real victims of ISIS lie in an unimaginable body count across the Arab world. It’s time that we reclaim the image, devoid of race and association: terrorists are terrorists, no matter who they are and where they’ve come from.
But that would be an easy route for me to go down. It would be easy for me to take a leftist spin on yesterday’s terrorist attack in London. I could jump down the throats of the neo-Nazi far right extremists such as Tommy Robinson and his cohort, alongside Britain First and UKIP. I could pick apart Katie Hopkins’ fabricated statement to Fox News that the people of Britain are quaking in our boots with fear, and I could shake an iron fist in the face of Farage’s ‘I told you so’ attitude. I could revel in the fact that the terrorist was actually British born and raised (and actually, I did a little in one tweet) because this smashes their premature and instantaneous jump yesterday and early this morning that sought to point fingers at immigration policies. Along this vein, I could criticise Robinson and Robertson as nothing short of deluded extremists, who hastily embarrassed themselves with false information at the scene; evoking a crude and dark tragi-comic spin-off of Batman and Robin meets an emasculated Hitler and Goebbels… But they don’t deserve the limelight nor the media attention they are undoubtedly receiving. The rise of the right pushing their ideologies in such a turbulent time is unwelcome, and I’m not about to bow down to it. We should demean them for what they are: opportunists invoking racism and fascism, thriving off atrocities to let their political agendas flourish. And while they will not be tolerated and their behaviour is nothing short of despicable, we will not rise to them because they do not represent us. ‘Us’ – the majority, the ‘good’ people of Britain that recognise terrorist attacks do not correlate to religious practices and skin colour. So I’m not going to give them the attention they are so desperately craving. Like a toddler throwing a tantrum in a sweets isle, we should ignore them and at most give them the silent treatment and a dab of Calpol to soothe the aching tooth of their spiteful hatred and hollow heart. I urge the people of Britain to turn your backs to them because now is not the time to bicker. Now is not the time to hone in on political divisions. We are not so easily categorized by ‘left’ and ‘right’. In a time like this, we all share something in common: humanity, love, and empathy, and this should take precedence in our campaign of togetherness and unity. If we want to appear strong in the face of opposition – in the face of terrorism – then that is what we should do and what a lot of Londoners today are doing as they continue their daily grind unflinchingly. We are not ‘more offended by [the right] than by a terrorist attack’ as one person tweeted; the far-right are like a fly on the wall – annoying, but soon-to-be squashed, so let’s not fret it.
Moving on then, I watched the news unravel yesterday in a cold draughty reception while my car failed its MOT. The receptionist and I stared on in silent disarray as the reports flooded in to the ceaseless drone of ambulances and police cars while the reporter remained nonchalant, trying to make sense of what had actually just happened. We witnessed the commotion behind the scenes; stretchers, blood, people running, helicopters, flashing blue lights and more sirens. We soon learned about the car smashing into innocent bystanders on Westminster Bridge and the (then unnamed) police officer who had been stabbed by the perpetrator. He was later to be declared dead and revealed as an honourable dutiful officer, PC Keith Palmer, ‘the defendant of our democracy’. Our feet were rooted to the floor, my complimentary tea had gone stone cold, and before I knew it, a crowd had gathered in the room. All of us were huddled around the TV, standing on tip-toes and tottering around to get a clearer view while the volume was cranked right up. In this shared moment in space and time, our expressions reflected into one another’s a hybrid between confusion and horror. It is this seemingly secluded and microscopic moment I’d like to sample. It was in that room that I envisaged the whole of Britain – at that exact pinpoint spec of a moment in the history of time – all doing the same. In this instant, we all felt and bore the same weight like a heavy burden across all of our shoulders. And, if it matters, (which it doesn’t) but I wasn’t the only white person in the room. In the face of tragedy all human hearts and minds conjoin under the same umbrella below the black rain cloud of sorrow. We hushed ourselves in thoughts for families and loved ones, shuffling through the room almost silently and echoing sighs and gasps in our diminutive discourse. Newcomers joined us in the room and offered further information that the news was withholding and we sat and listened with eager ears.
I’d like to believe that the whole of Britain was clustered around in that MOT office, horrified and shocked with heavy hearts. And that’s why I’m urging the right – and, to an extent the left, too – to have a day off. Give up the gag for a while. People have died. Now is the time for solidarity, unity, and soldiering on. Now is the time to throw out our hands in brethren and compassion. Now is the time to grieve for the victims and their families. Now is the time for that British stiff upper lip that we’re so renowned for to stand as prominent as ever in the face of terrorism: we will not give into fear, scapegoating, and the pointing of fingers. Ignore whatever the opposition is spouting, rejoice in kindred with one another, celebrate the lives of those lost, and pay some damn respect. At the risk of sounding like a patriotic megalomaniac, we are British, and we don’t get down like that.
Freedom. Democracy. Diversity. We fought for (in dare I say it, the WAR), and earned all of those things. All of that is ours, and nothing can take that away from us.
Something happened that was out of our control. But we can control how we react: with decency, compassion, and in true British style. Keep bloody calm and carry on, eh.
Rest in peace to those lives lost yesterday and who are currently still fighting for their lives under the supervision of our amazing doctors and nurses. The NHS really shines on days like these, as does our policing units who continue to defend and fight for our rights on a daily basis.