Just as night follows day, a terror attack of any kind produces a sort of knee-jerk stupidity on social media. We’ve all seen “British and proud” statuses on Facebook, if not the kind of “string ’em all up!” racist diatribes that tend to follow in the wake of an atrocity.
What’s lost on the people who, in the aftermath of the horrific Woolwich murder, resort to patriotism – “the virtue of the vicious,” as Oscar Wilde had it – is that the perpetrators were British themselves.
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Although at the time of writing only one of the men charged with killing Lee Rigby in Woolwich has been identified, he is a London-born child from a Christian family.
Allowing the spurious notion that the UK is a Christian country, his background couldn’t be any more British. Except of course, that he’s black. Anyone who argues that this man isn’t “really British” is either arguing that black people can’t be British, which is patently ridiculous, or that people with a non-Christian religion aren’t British, which is equally stupid.
So be proud to be British all you want; it doesn’t address any of the issues in play, here.
The problem at its base is fundamentalism. In the case of the Woolwich murder, religious fundamentalism, but the word “religious” is irrelevant in that phrase. Believe in any God you like – they’re all equally unlikely – but only a fundamentalist takes that God as a reason to hate and maim and murder.
As such, the people who are petitioning to have all Arabs deported and all Muslims hanged are guilty of the same basic stupidity as the Woolwich murderers. They’re abandoning rational thought in the name of dogma; abandoning tolerance and empathy in favour of knee jerk “revenge” against people who haven’t wronged them in the first place.
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The truth is that we’re all just people. All of us. The gays, the straights, the blacks, the whites, the Arabs, the meek and the terrorists. All of us, variations on a theme, like jazz. To be proud of any one arbitrary group – your location of birth, your skin colour, your feelings on Marmite – is silly and counterproductive to the ultimate progress of the species.
So by all means, be appalled by the Woolwich attacks. But if you’re going to be proud of any of the trillions of fluke circumstances that led to your birth, don’t be proud of where it happened or of what colour you turned out to be. It’s as arbitrary as being proud to be part of a democracy (an idea invented by the ancient Greeks) or a connoisseur of whiskey (a French word dealing with an Irish invention) or of your excellent European car, or your Japanese TV.
You should instead be proud to be from a species that split the atom and went to the moon. Be proud to share DNA with Van Gogh and BB King. Be proud of being human.
And as for the veiled racism of “I’m British And Proud,” knock it off. This species has better things to do.
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