We are United

As if the massacre in Orlando wasn’t enough, the brutal murder of Jo Cox is another blow against liberty and tolerance. In both cases, a mentally unwell individual committed a terrible crime, spurred on by hateful ideologies. Of course, there are unstable people the world over who do terrible things, in the name of spurious dogmas. However, there is a glut of racist and destructive ideas floating around the current political climate, which might inspire the vulnerable and disturbed to commit acts of murderous evil. It seems that we’re in a dark age, where fear is exploited for political gain.

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I must admit that I didn’t know very much about Jo Cox, but I’m very interested in the Syrian civil war, and I admired the way she referred to the resulting humanitarian crisis. She spoke about the people fleeing unspeakable horror with compassion and understanding, stating that if it were her, she would risk life and limb to get her ‘two precious babies out of that hellhole’. I believe it would be helpful if people could think along the same lines as Jo Cox, and try to imagine what they would do if they were in the shoes of an ordinary Syrian family. Cox’s focus was civilian protection; she advocated action by the UK and allies to put a stop to Assad’s bombing of civilian areas. She campaigned for humanitarian airdrops containing food and essential supplies from the UK to besieged civilians, to ensure an end to Assad’s deliberate use of starvation as a weapon.

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It makes me angry that the word ‘refugee’ has been replaced with the somewhat pejorative term ‘migrant’.  All too often politicians and the press refer to migrants in terms of numbers and statistics, divorcing humanity from the amorphous swarm, supposedly ready to flood our country. A refugee is someone who society has a moral obligation to help. This crisis is one of the defining moments of our generation, and history will judge our response accordingly.

The EU referendum has engendered misleading and sometimes poisonous rhetoric. UKIP’s offensive and inflammatory poster suggesting that a group of refugees leaving Croatia to head into Slovenia is leaving us at ‘Breaking Point’, was particularly unhelpful. The image was condemned by people from across the political spectrum, including some of the leaders of the Brexit campaign. That pompous oaf, Nigel Farage, claimed that the poster was only meant to be released for one day, and therefore he didn’t have to withdraw it, conveniently deflecting from the rank xenophobia he uses to peddle his message. Farage even had the audacity to suggest that Jo Cox’s death had prompted the negative reaction to the poster.

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There’s been a flood of information from both sides of the debate, it’s sometimes difficult to decipher the facts from the propaganda. However, my attitude to immigration is based on personal experience. When my Dad was ill, he was frequently in and out of hospital and treatment centres (both NHS and private). Most of the nurses and carers were immigrants, they looked after him with gentle kindness, professionalism and good cheer. They spoke to me and my family with compassion and tact, knowing that we were facing a terrible loss. They made us cups of tea and brought us tissues when we wept. Some even shared their own stories of when their loved ones died. I’m reminded of Jo Cox’s words, ‘we are far more united and have more in common than that which divides us’. The truth is that a lot of immigrants are doing essential, difficult work that UK natives don’t want to do.

I don’t usually have an emotional reaction to the death of someone I don’t know. But Jo Cox spoke up for the voiceless and dispossessed, she championed equality and the possibility of a better society. She seemed to be an exceptionally good person and the world is a darker, meaner place without her. I hope that something positive comes out of this appalling situation, perhaps we will all heed her humanitarian message and try to see the good in all people.

I’ll be voting IN on Thursday.