Last Friday, in Chorlton, Jeff Smith MP, gave a short and from-the-heart speech about the assassinated MP, Jo Cox. About 40 people were present (a presumably much bigger gathering was held in Piccadilly Gardens an hour later). The event was short, dignified and much-needed. Not just for the Labour Party figures present (GM mayoral candidate Tony Lloyd, local Councillors Matt Strong, John Hacking, Grace Fletcher-Hackwood) but for anyone who understands that it wasn’t just a mother of two young children who was attacked, but the essence of our hard-won democracy.
These are dark – horrible – times. If we can’t disagree without resorting to violence, how on earth are we supposed to meet the challenges of the 21st century?
Politicians – of whatever stripe – are nervous. They’d be stupid not to be. And most of them are not stupid, corrupt or lazy, despite what the media will tell you. Yes, they maybe too tribal, too willing to shift blame, but show me a social grouping that doesn’t circle the wagons. It’s how the species rolls. Being a representative means long long hours, thankless tasks, a certain amount of verbal abuse. But what happened on Thursday sends a horrible message. And without democracy, what are we?
Each of us has to decide how we respond to this awful event. Jo Cox’s husband was crystal clear about what he wanted, and it bears repeating.
“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.
“Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full.”
Other intelligent and compassionate people, like Laurie Penny, have also weighed in. With her typical brilliance she observed
Right now our society is full of lost, angry people looking for someone to blame. Right now, our culture is captured by swivel-eyed demagogues only too happy to take that blame and direct it for their own political ends. Racists, xenophobes, homophobes, misogynists, religious extremists and right-wing fanatics, all offering their own lyrics to the same chorus of fear, the same promise to restore your lost pride if you only march along.
This is not simply a question of terrorism, or of mental illness, easy as either of those answers would be. It’s both, and more. It’s hate-groups preying on the broken and hopeless and fearful, and we are letting it happen.
I can’t answer the question of this blog post for anyone else. Everyone has to answer it for themselves.
For what it’s worth, my answer is this.
We honour Jo Cox’s memory and life by striving at being democratic. By being active citizens who struggle for our values and causes non-violently, diligently and relentlessly.
We honour her by knowing that this is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not about this election, that by -election, this scrutiny committee, that march. It’s about the long haul. And bar the obsessives, that means having a ‘crew’ to do it together.
We honour her by knowing that it is not a game, that the consequences of inaction, failure or retreat because of ‘burnout’ or ‘disappointment’ are real, and will be paid by real human beings, future generations and other species. It is real. All too real.
Here’s what I will do.
- I will press the Council to keep its existing climate promises (there are many, mostly ignored).
- I will press the Council to take the threat of climate change seriously. Lip service won’t do.
- I will try to help other citizens who want to do this democratic long-haulism to do it more, to do it better.
I ask you – what will you do?
RIP Jo Cox.