Everyday acts of heroism show what it means to be human
The National, by Kevin McKenna
AS this week unfolds and we grope clumsily for an appropriate response to the attack on Manchester the word “values” will feature often. Thus, the lone suicide bomber who took so many young lives to the grave with him will have carried out an attack on “British values”. Before the week is out I’m certain I’ll use the phrase myself in unguarded moments orAS this week unfolds and we grope clumsily for an appropriate response to the attack on Manchester the word “values” will feature often. Thus, the lone suicide bomber who took so many young lives to the grave with him will have carried out an attack on “British values”. Before the week is out I’m certain I’ll use the phrase myself in unguarded moments or find myself nodding in serious agreement when others use it.
Yet, though understandable, it is a slightly trite and thoughtless phrase which must cause problems for the Left in Scotland and the rest of the UK. It doesn’t merely suggest that this was an attack on the way we choose to live our lives – which is certainly part of it – but implies that in the UK we live by a higher code than the community from which the suicide bomber was sprung. This is when we run into problems.
Effectively we are implying that Islam is a barbarous religion which encourages the ideas and motivations which led to the bomber’s act. And that, even though the overwhelming majority of Muslims have lived peacefully throughout the UK for generations, it was always inevitable that their communities would produce men like this.
The “different” values of Islam, we will say, allowed the extreme ideals of Daesh to be planted; to take root and to flourish. It is a shallow and lazy response which owes more to ideas of cultural superiority than a genuine attempt to understand why some young men become mesmerised by Daesh.
As the scale of Monday night’s carnage became apparent the simple human values of courage and compassion soon became apparent. A landlady of an inn near the Manchester Arena deployed social media to announce that she was opening her doors to the friends and families of those who might be waiting on news of their loved ones who had attended the concert by the American Ariana Grande, which had just ended when the bomb went off. Soon, other ordinary Mancunians were making similar offers of their homes and bedrooms. Among them would have been members of the city’s Muslim community.find myself nodding in serious agreement when others use it.
A similar response was observed in Germany last month when the team bus on which the players of Borussia Dortmund were travelling to play a Champions League fixture against Monaco was attacked. The incident forced the postponement of the game until the following day leaving hundreds of French supporters, who had not been planning to stay on in the city, stranded. Again, using social media, local families threw open their doors to the French. It was a simple statement of defiance in the face of evil that said that common human values of love and compassion were already beginning to overcome evil and self-gratification.
In Manchester on Monday night a distraught mum searching for her missing 15-year-old daughter made an emotional appeal on Twitter for help in her search. She filmed herself with a picture of her daughter and this was immediately re-tweeted across social media. Just as important were the heartfelt messages of love, support and sympathy for the poor woman. Who knows what solace she might one day come to derive from those simple little sentences in the event that her beautiful daughter is among the dead.
Members of the public who found themselves in the vicinity of the concert venue and who perhaps didn’t have the words simply offered themselves; their arms and their shoulders to hug and comfort hundreds of traumatised youngsters emerging dazed from the concert.
Amongst the first responders to the Manchester attack, as they always are, were police, fire-fighters and paramedics; people drawn from all different religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. We rarely pause to imagine what unimaginable horrors they must encounter when working through an incident such as this. To them is given the worst task of all; of bringing some order and a degree of comfort while sifting through young bodies ripped apart and lying in pools of blood. You forget that often throughout the rest of the year in less dramatic circumstances they routinely must deal with similar scenes, albeit on a smaller scale. Rarely do we reflect on what psychological injuries they sustain and for which no amount of training can diminish the impact. On Tower Bridge this year even as a gunman was searching for more people to kill, ordinary members of the public ran to assist the injured, not knowing what danger there still existed and what sights may greet them.
Yesterday and today the mere business of a General Election has been suspended, as it was during the EU referendum last year following the brutal slaying of Jo Cox. A trite, but perfectly understandable response can be to aver that politics doesn’t matter when something like this happens. But it does matter, if only to demonstrate that people who possess diametrically opposing views to those of their neighbours and who passionately express them, can do so in a civilised and human manner.
Effectively, the act of casting their ballot at the end of the process is a sign of peace and reconciliation. “I reject and oppose your views utterly, but in this simple act of ticking a box on a sheet of paper and slipping it inside a box I am respecting them also and accepting your will if it’s the one that prevails nationally.”
I fervently hope that Scotland soon will have another opportunity to strive for independence and I hope more profoundly than I could ever have previously imagined that we vote Yes. And I fervently hope Jeremy Corbyn triumphs in the Westminster election. But I won’t be in the depths of despair if it’s to be No once more and if Theresa May wins on May 8. There are some things more important than whether Scotland becomes independent or not.
Last night even in the valley of the shadow of death, thousands of everyday Mancunians feared no evil and demonstrated heroism and selflessness in the face of evil and love and compassion for their stricken fellow human beings. These are the most important things.