Yesterday, a British MP was assassinated. Yes, I know, you missed it on the news, well I hate to say it I did too. I guess it wasn’t important enough to tell Americans about, but it is. Here’s why.
First off she was a woman, her name is Jo Cox, in her early 40s, married, mother of two small children. By all a counts a very decent, charming, humanitarian, gifted woman. Our thoughts, like those of the decent Britons, are with her, and her family, we share in very small measure, their loss.
The problem is, as it is here, there wasn’t time to wash up the blood before the blaming and recriminations began, just as it was after Orlando. This unseemly finger-pointing has become the hallmark of our societies, and I think we would be well advised to simply stop it. No Nigel Farage didn’t want Jo Cox to be murdered, nor did he order it, but when rhetoric runs as hot and fast as it does lately, should we really be surprised when things like this happen. No,we should not be, nor should we be, when they happen on the other side, for that matter. If we characterize everyone who opposes us as evil, well, first we denigrate the term evil, for evil is much worse than misguided, and that’s mostly what we see in political terms. Yes, I mean that to be taken both ways. Second, our words may, in fact, call forth evil, as may have happened yesterday.
Cranmer this morning says this:
And then a brief thesis from EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos: “Jo Cox murdered for her dedication to European democracy and humanity. Extremism divides and nourishes hatred..” And with this, you begin to see how the laudable fight against hatred becomes a fight against what some people hate, and evil becomes all that is disagreeable or contentious. Brexit? Good Lord, no, not now. It is driven by the demons of prejudice, hatred and bigotry. Jo Cox was for Remain, and we must honour her memory by voting to remain. It is what she would have wanted.
And that is also what we saw at last weekend, isn’t it? The rush to man the barricades for our causes, to cast ‘the other’ into the den of iniquity, while wearing our pure white garments. Well, I call nonsense on all of us. We’re men and women, all of us, trying to do good while trying to pick our way through a minefield, while seeing through a glass darkly. Good and evil exist, and they have their place in the discussion, but they are not what motivates most people, most of the time. Give the opposition this much credit, in very few cases, if any, does anyone in either Britain or America seek to wreak actual harm on anyone. Most of the harm is unintended consequences, no less harmful, maybe, but not intentional, either.
Jess too, wrote about this today, and I think her perspective is important.
I would go further. Rhetoric is meant to have consequences – that is its purpose, that is why it is used at all. We see this same toxic rhetoric of betrayal used in the sphere of religion too – anyone who reads certain blogs where the Pope is called ‘Bergoglio’ will have some idea of the form this rhetoric takes, excusing itself by saying that what its exponents believe is true and urgent and justifies the language and tone; so say all rabble-rousers. Contemptuous rhetoric can easily lead to contempt in action.
Pope St John Paul II described ‘solidarity’ with others as not a ‘feel of vague compassion or shallow distress’, but rather a ‘firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to see to the good of each and every individual, because we are all really responsible for all’. Jo Cox showed that sort of solidarity, first at Oxfam, and then, as an MP, as a prominent campaigner for more help to be given to Syrian refugees. I have no idea whether she was a Christian, but she lived by St John Paul’s definition of solidarity. She was, by all account, an excellent constituency MP, engaging closely with the community into which she was born.
Our world is a worse place today because Jo Cox is no longer in it. She was taken from us by an evil man, likely a deranged one, we don’t know, we may never really know, why. But the incredibly bad campaign rhetoric over Brexit, while it likely wasn’t the only cause, may have a share in the blame.
We, in Britain, and in America, can and must do better than this.
Yes, I’m sure that Ms. Cox and I disagreed about many things, in life, and in politics, but she made us all better, for there is nothing worse than working without opposition, it causes so very many mistakes.
God grant you peace, my sister, Jo, and provide comfort to your family.