I have a Dream
Anyone reading my twitter today will have detected my uncharacteristic anger. Readers of this blog will also have noticed I have been absent from this blog for around a month.
There are few things which get me angry – but injustice really bothers me. It should bother us all. Injustice – when left unchallenged, could come knocking at any of our doors, on any day.
The last few months, if I am honest have been rather difficult for me to get my head round. I have been a little quiet on here while I try and make sense of the world around me.
I suppose it all started in April with the Boston Bombings, and then of course we had the very tragic killing of Lee Rigby here in the UK. The two events themselves I coped with rather well. Many people asked if I was ok. What I have struggled with however, have been the hate fuelled reactions of some to these events, who have sought to use the events themselves, and the counter arguments for advancement of their own positions. No one has asked if I am ok with this. Quite simply, I am not.
Each extremist group depends on those of opposing opinions – though of course they remain in denial about this. However the only real gain you will ever see from an act of political violence is promotion and recruitment to ‘the other’ cause.
Since Lee Rigby’s death I have seen a lot of ‘victim claiming’ from Far Right groups, then the counter narrative victim claiming from Muslim groups, and even anti fascist groups too – all using the actions and opinions of the other groups to justify their own arguments. Sadly I haven’t seem enough examples of serious coming together of community leaders to work together, highlighting similarities and understanding or valuing differences, though there has been some. This victim claiming on all sides only adds to the conflict. The only people I haven’t seen victim claiming are Lee Rigby’s family who have dealt with the depths of their grief with dignity and compassion.
On the day of Drummer Rigby’s funeral, a nail bomb was planted near a Mosque in Tipton. It had been detonated at the usual time of Friday prayers. Luckily, due to it being the Holy month of Ramadan, Friday prayers were timed later; and no-one was injured.
A nail bomb is a very serious and deadly device. It will kill and seriously injure those within the blast radius. Following July 7th, nail bombs were found in the bombers cars. Had those nail bombs also been placed in the rucksacks the men carried, I am without doubt that I would not have survived. The shrapnel from the device would certainly have caused me substantial head injuries. My intention is not to heighten conflict, but we must ask ourselves, would we have reacted in the same way had the nail bomb on Friday not been left near a Mosque? On Friday, the press were not so quick to speculate as to who or the ideology behind the persons who may have planted the nail bomb, as they were following Boston, or Woolwhich. Why? I doubt it is because our press have suddenly decided to become ‘responsible’ and not speculate.
Sadly, we live in a society, a world – where one victim, or group of victims are deemed more worthy than others. Where not only the assailants of crime are judged, but indeed so are their victims. As a victim or survivor of a crime, sympathy, empathy, support and even justice can depend on the colour of your skin, your religion, your sex, your age, where you are from or even what you are wearing.
This morning I awoke – as did many to the news from the United States that the man accused of the murder of Trayvon Martin had been found not guilty; and had walked from court a free man, not even guilty of Manslaughter.
Trayvon was a young black man, wearing a hoodie as he walked home last February; as such a man with a gun felt threatened by him and killed him. Trayvon was killed because of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of ‘the other.’
What upsets me, as a survivor of an act of violence, is not only the loss of life, but the law which has enabled his killer to walk free. Whilst respecting the American constitution and federal and state laws are different to UK laws, notably the right to bear arms; in the state of Florida, as some other states, it is lawful to shoot in self-defence if you believe your life to be in danger. In other words – it is lawful to kill because you are in fear. The jury accepted Zimmerman’s contention that he shot Trayvon in self-defence, believing his life to be in immediate danger.
I spent this morning, trying to reason with this law, thinking maybe because I am a UK citizen, I didn’t understand it, but as the day has progressed, I am still resolved in my belief and values – that it is not just to kill or harm another man because of fear; particularly if, as the case would suggest – that fear is because of the colour of the young mans skin.
Fear of the unknown, fear of another persons skin colour or religion has gripped the UK for the last two months, indeed it has manifested, often unspoken for the last 8 years, since I was injured on July 7th 2005. So often, I am asked ‘how do you feel about Muslims now?’ so often that question has upset me, because of the suggestion I should feel hatred. Now I see that question as a privilege, that people feel they can ask me as I some how have a ‘right’ to an opinion, and I can use the opportunity to promote understanding, to challenge that expectation of hatred, and to encourage breaking the cycle of violence. Following both the Boston bombings and Lee Rigbys murder, were very quick statements made in the press that the assailants ‘were of Muslim appearance.’ Judgments such as these repeated in the press at a time of high emotion, only serve to re-institutionalise the racism and fear which contributed to the cycle of violence in the first place.
Next month will be 50 years since Martin Luther King addressed America, and the world with his ‘I have a Dream’ speech. A speech which cannot fail to inspire, to unite humanity – so why do we still seem so far from realising his dream? Should that dream not be the dream of all humanity? As a survivor of violence, I perhaps desire that dream more than most, I dream of a day where no one lives in fear of the violence I experienced, where fear does not contribute to the kind of violence I experienced, or Trayvon experienced. A world where parents are not outraged someone would hurt their child, where parents do not have to grieve the loss of their child, or the injustice of their child’s killer not being punished.
Trayvon’s parents have endured the greatest of tragedy’s – the loss of their son, and now they suffer the revictimisation that their sons killer not be punished, due to a law I simply cannot understand or justify. A law which appears to place fear above life. We now owe it to Trayvons parents to support them, to demonstrate not only our outrage at their situation, but our compassion, empathy and support. We must come together in peaceful non-violence to create a world where life comes before fear.
”Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
I hope the citizens of America are able to challenge within themselves these issues of race, guns and violence. It should not have taken the life of a young man for us to ask ourselves is it really JUST to kill some one because you fear the colour of their skin, or what the colour of their skin may represent to you. Just as it should not have to take the killing of a soldier on the streets of London for the UK to begin to ask themselves similar questions. These questions need to be asked, and they need to be answered, and then we must find the solutions so we do not fear the unfamiliar, the other, and we can break the cycle of violence.
”With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”
Next month on the 28th August will be 50 years from when Reverend Martin Luther King inspired us with his words. Isn’t it about time we put his words into action, to create the Beloved Community he dreamed of? To create a world where there will be no more Trayvon Martins, no more Lee Rigbys, and no more Lisa French’s speaking up for them.
I share Martin Luther Kings dream…
‘’I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.’’