There are many things that shock me about the murder of the MP Jo Cox, who died yesterday.
The main thing is that until yesterday I had literally never heard of her.
Earlier this month I had been lamenting the demise of the politician as statesman/woman to a friend. We were trying to think of MPs that we actually admired. We were trying to think of MPs that stuck by their values, who stayed true to their constituents, who were principled and decent and not in it for themselves. I came up with Mo Mowlam.
She’s been dead for eleven years.
Actually, it now seems I only had to look a little harder, because from everything I have read over the last few hours, Jo Cox was exactly the woman I was looking for. It is such a shame that she has been taken too.
I am angry.
I am angry that for the second time in a week I am going tonight to stand in a vigil to celebrate the lives of those people whose only crime has been to love and live too well.
I am angry that people are excusing what one white murderer (with undeniable ties to fascist organisations) did as the tragic, isolated act of a man with mental health issues, whilst decrying the entire Islamic nation for the actions of one man who killed fifty gay people on Sunday and who fail to see the irony, or the fact that this is exactly the kind of thinking that propagates the hate that led to the death of Jo Cox.
I am angry that our politicians have, rather than, as I have been urging all along over the last few months, giving people facts, engaging in rational debate and trying to support its electorate, been whipping up an atmosphere of fear and panic that has led outbursts of what I can only describe as racist ugliness in our towns and cities. I speak here as someone whose city has been visited by Britain First twice in the last few weeks, both times under the guise of encouraging people to vote Out in the EU referendum. I speak as a woman who was chased down my high street this week by a woman screaming at me about our country being flooded with foreigners who have six babies at a time and who are ruining the NHS, so don’t try to tell me that this rhetoric of hate is not having an effect, because it is.
I am angry that people are already criticising people for the way they are mourning for the loss of Jo Cox. It does not matter that we did not know her. We can still be devastated that such a positive, humane person has been taken from us before we got the chance to know her. We can still mourn the loss of what she might have done for our country.
I am angry that people are saying that it is not decent to speak out because it is more respectful to stay silent. Her husband has said, and I quote:
“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.”
He did not say: ‘Be quiet. Shut up. Don’t say things that make me uncomfortable.’
He said fight.
He said fight against hatred.
Stand up. Be counted. If you are genuinely shocked. If you are genuinely distressed and you care about what she cared about, perhaps the best way you can mourn, and the best way you can show that her life meant something (although clearly it meant a damn sight more than most peoples, and I include myself in that), then do not turn away from the uncomfortable truths her life and death uncovered. Fight.
Fight for dignity and love and unity and grace in these terrible times. Stand shoulder to shoulder with people. Hold hands. Be proud and be loud and do not allow these divisions that threaten to break us to win.
I said earlier that many things about her death shocked me.
The thing that shocks me most is this.
Why, for the love of God, has my television and media been saturated with images of self seeking, self serving idiot MPs whose bleats are more ‘look at me,’ than ‘how can I help you?’ or ‘how can I make the world a better place?’
Why has so much air time been given to messages of blind hatred, bigotry and bile than what Jo Cox stood for?
This was a woman who believed that, what unites us is stronger than what divides us. I cannot count the number of times I have said this over the last few weeks. This was a woman who believed that our country is a Great Britain because of its diversity, not its isolationism. This was a woman who believed that there is room here for all of us, and that holding out the hand of generosity and kindness is not stupid, or naive. She believed it was the only decent thing to do. This was a woman who opposed bombing in Syria, working across parties to try and achieve her goals. This was a woman who believed in saving helpless children because she understood that if her children were in a place like Syria, that she would move heaven and earth to get them out. This was a woman who campaigned to stop violence against women.
This was a woman who did not say, ‘isn’t it a shame?’ and then sit back down on her sofa and do nothing. This was a woman who worked hard to try to make the vision of the world she wanted more than a dream.
Fight for that.