In the days since the terrible Brussel’s attacks I have watched the Internet and the media swarming with the same hideous, rubbernecking curiosity that masquerades as reporting and sympathy and felt sick to my stomach.
I’ve felt equally nauseous as scared people trot out the same rhetoric about what terrorists are and what terrorists do, and what we should do in response to terrorism. The ‘shut our borders’, ‘isolate ourselves’, ‘punish this country’s citizens, people of that faith, people with that colour skin because they’re all the same,’ nonsense that is fear masquerading as fact.
The same knee-jerk reaction. The same them and us rhetoric. The same ‘we’ are somehow better than ‘them’.
What strikes me is how similar the language of these people is to that of the terrorists. The terrorists want their own country/ies back. They want unity, they want to isolate. They want to exclude anyone who is other than what they recognise as being superior/important/more special than everyone else. Their beliefs, their rights, their needs are more important than anyone else’s.
I ask you. Who exactly are ‘we’?
You might think I am one of the ‘we’. I’m British born and bred. I’m white. I’m educated. Sorry I’m a woman, but you know, you can’t have everything. Obviously it would be better if I were a man.
Well, I’m not one of your ‘we’. I honestly feel dirty at the thought of being ‘we’ and thinking about ‘them’ in the terms that some people seem to think are expected of me.
If I look at who has done the most damage to this country in recent years I see white, middle class, well educated men in suits. Bankers, MPs, bureaucrats, judges, lawyers, government employees. Removing disability benefit, cutting PIPS, making schools academies, signing up to TTIP, dismantling the NHS? All of this will do more damage to our nation than any terrorist attack ever could or will.
There is nothing pure bred about me. I know exactly what I am. I am a mongrel, and I’m damned proud of it.
Britain is a country of mongrels. It is not a country of pure breeds. There is no Englishman without the Romans, the Scandinavians, the French, the Jews, the Muslims, the people of the colonies that have been washing up on this shore for thousands of years, and who continue to do so. Our history is a shared history that has spanned the globe and come back again, time after time. It’s one of the only parts of what is supposed to make Britain ‘Great’ that I actually am proud of.
We are a nation whose rich, beautiful, sprawling language reflects the hundreds of nations who have visited and been visited by us in return (I realise that some of these ‘visits’ have been less friendly than others). Our resilience, our longevity, all the traits we are proud to describe as English have been handed down to us over generations of interbreeding with every nation on earth.
I love the fact that when I pick my son up from school every day the playground is a riot of languages, ages, genders, religions and skin colour. I love the fact that we exist in this tiny country, equitably. I love the fact that my son is as at home in a Gurdwara as he is in a church, that he will happily tuck into my friend Jenn’s Mauritian food as he does beans on toast. I love the fact that two miles from my house I can go and eat a Turkish breakfast in a cafe filled with people from nations all over the globe and we come together over a shared love of what we are eating. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If we were pure bred, a bit like the Spanish royal family in the 18th Century we would now be mad, disease ridden dwarves. If we were pure bred, like Queen Victoria’s great tribe of children, we would be writing our own death warrant with in-bred, genetically driven diseases passed from one end of a tiny gene pool to another. If we are obsessed with this notion of purity and isolation we would and will be ending up like one of those mad cults who lock themselves away in the jungle and end up committing mass suicide. It is not healthy to isolate. It never has been.
Evil people come in all shapes and sizes, colours and faiths and from all countries. There is no border or skin pigment that keeps out evil.
Our strength comes from our willingness to bend, to integrate, to accept, to share, to be generous, to learn, not our close minded, stupidity and fear.
We need to remember that there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’. What unites us is stronger and more enduring than what divides us.
We are us and them.