Although my Facebook feed is filling with Union Flags and statements like ” we are not afraid, and although the events at Westminster horrified mt yesterday I am not feeling particularly patriotic, not that I ever do really, but there is something deeper going on in my heart and soul that I need to explain. I watched the events of yesterday sitting in my warm and comfortable living room with the cushioning effect of a TV screen between me and reality. What struck me as the reporters tried to make sense of what was going on was not the bravery of the Police, and they were brave, but the shakiness in the voices of the MP’s and other eyewitnesses who were interviewed. Such shakiness will of course be deepened by grief for the families and friends of those killed, and my heart goes out to them.
That said =we must not lose sight of our vulnerability in our attempts to move forward, while I am sure there is a temptation to recover the stiff upper lip we Brits are so renowned for, I am not convinced that making statements like ” we are not afraid”, or the oft repeated “keep calm and carry on” are useful. Perhaps we might be better to sit with our vulnerability for a while, because it might just give us an insight into the daily horror faced by many across our world. There are many for whom the world is never a safe place, many who sleep and wake with fact of war raging all about them. There are many who don’t have the luxury of a warm room, nor the cushioning effect of a TV screen, many who have moved beyond the shakiness and vulnerability so evident in the eyewitnesses yesterday to a place of almost mute resignation, where the will to survive and fight back has been replaced by a fatalism, that should chill us to the bone.
So where do we go from here, heightened security is inevitable, and vigilance is also necessary, I am sure that it will be evident in London, as it has been in other European cities in the wake of similar attacks, but it must not make us closed. In a world where we are seeing a continued rise in fascism and fear of those who are different seems to rule the day, insularity and polarisation seem to be running hand in hand. We are becoming closed to one another, more and more afraid of one another, and it is this that makes me more afraid for our future than any terrorist attack has the power to do.
I am afraid for my friends and neighbours, when I see news of arrests and deportations for those who have been living peacefully and productively alongside me for years, I am afraid. I am afraid when I hear people I thought I knew well speaking in terms of us and them, when individuals are catagorised and lumped together without thought as if “they” are all the same because of ethnic origin or religion. I am afraid because the vocabulary of hate seems to be growing, and those who are deemed “other” become targets. I have heard of attacks both physical and verbal carried out on buses and trains, sometimes they hit the news, but often I am sure they don’t. When people are told to go home, when this is and has always been their home! I am more foreign than many, having been born and brought up in the Far East, but my accent and skin colour don’t give that away.
So I choose to live with vulnerability, I choose to, hear the shakiness in those voices, and I choose to allow that to open my heart to the way that many around the world are feeling. This is not about a wake up call to be strong, but a wake up call to be open, people are fearful and angry, people are exhausted by war and ravaged by famine, corruption and injustice are rampant across the world and no-one is exempt! What may have slipped by many of us as the reports from Westminster filled our screens is the fact that:
Now I might be adding two and two and making 7, and I am not saying that these things were linked, I am certain they aren’t, but they are an indicator of our own complacency, how can I live in a country who export arms to war torn countries, who effectively fuel the war machine and at the same time weep over images of child refugees who have been denied asylum and not make a connection. So maybe this vulnerability needs to be a real wake up call, not to defend our borders, but to look into our hearts, to seek justice and mercy, to choose love over hate and suspicion.
I repeat the prayer that I wrote yesterday evening:
How do I pray
For this broken world…
This world where right and wrong
Have blurred edges ( rightly so),
But wounds are fresh again,
And my fears
Are that we will build more walls,
When we need to look one another
In the eye,
I know you…