07 July 2005

A sad PS

Even as I was finishing up today's post on the Waterfront Blues Festival, evil was unfolding eight time zones to my east, shredding the lives of hundreds of Londoners.

Scenes from London, as revealed by Internet news sites, looked and felt eerily like the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Iraq, especially the above-ground bus bombing. It is a small world—in good ways and in ways that are hard to anticipate.

Among the many statements and quotations that have emerged today, one—from London's mayor Ken Livingstone, a steadfast opponent of the war on Iraq—seemed particularly moving. He concluded: (source)
Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life.

I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others—that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.

In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.

They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don’t want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.
Those people who "came to London to take life" have certainly merited the status of "enemy," and the British people are right to predict the terrorists' certain defeat in the face of British resilience and thirst for a culturally rich, creative form of freedom. What I liked about Livingstone's statement was its directness, its honest acknowledgment of the enemy's strong convictions, and its direct confrontation with the enemy's basic assumptions. All this is in stark contrast to the usual political platitudes in the face of terrorism.

From the comfort of the G8 summit hotel, President Bush painted the contrast between the terrorist enemy and the summit: (source)
The contrast between what we've seen on the TV screens here, what's taken place in London, what's taken place here is incredibly vivid to me.

On the one hand, we got people here who are working to alleviate poverty and to help rid the world of the pandemic of AIDS and that are working on ways to have a clean environment. And on the other hand, you've got people killing innocent people. And the contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill, those who've got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks.
I hope and pray that George Bush makes these same connections as the time comes to undergird our AIDS and environmental and anti-poverty rhetoric with funds and policies. Otherwise, the preventable death toll among people in the bondage of poverty will overwhelm today's tragedy and make a sad mockery of Bush's tone of moral superiority.

Friday morning: Many thanks to Contemplative Activist for alerting us to this excellent Robin Cook essay in The Guardian.

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