A British MP, Jo Cox, has been gunned down in a British street. I can’t remember this ever having happened before. MPs have been killed before by the IRA but this seems different. Residents of Yorkshire villages are not used to people being shot on their doorsteps. Britain is not a gun culture. This is a highly unusual event.
As far as I can gather from reading the papers and watching the news the gunman was a middle aged man who had long had mental health problems. There is some speculation that he had an interest in far right politics though this is not clear. Jo Cox was his MP and has taken an interest in world affairs, is pro-EU and an advocate for refugees. She used to work for Oxfam. Eye witnesses could not seem to agree if he had shouted “Britain First” before the attack. Britain First have distanced themselves from the incident.
When I first heard I felt profound shock. Details emerged about what a lovely person the MP seemed to be, full of energy and conviction, committed to a better world and to equality for all. This seems to make the tragedy worse. I feel the need for a period of mourning as a nation and indeed the campaigning on the EU referendum has temporarily stopped.
What I am surprised at are the number of people using the death as a way to score political points. On Twitter and in the papers some commentators are placing the blame squarely at the feet of the Leave campaign. This seems grossly unfair. Polly Toynbee’s article in today’s Guardian is a prime example. She is ramping up the rhetoric of hate, comparing Gove and Johnson to Oswald Mosely and Enoch Powell. This is utterly ridiculous. I am for Remain but smearing all my opponents as racist is not going to help matters. Toynbee is responding to a hate crime with more hate. As many sages have said, wiser than me, you cannot drive out hate with hate.
Jo Cox should be remembered with love and in her memory we should all try to be loving towards one another. I shall try to use her as a role model, to try to be more like her, to love more in an attempt to remove the darkness that sometimes resides in my heart. I can feel her death as tragic but I can also feel compassion for a mentally ill man, struggling with unemployment, feeling rejected from a society that bore him.
All the facts have yet to unfold and many will change their views no doubt as we find out more.
Let’s hope we can honour a life well lived in a civilised fashion.