lokifan: Text "London", sepia Big Ben & stamps (London)
[personal profile] lokifan
I was planning to post on Sunday - either about the beautiful little London moment I had Saturday evening, or the Manchester bombing, or both. And then both of those turned out to be… well, not inappropriate, but taking a lot more tweaking than I had bandwidth for. (I was really tired this weekend and ended up missing a housewarming I’d been looking forward to - although I did not miss the most hilarious Beatles-themed night ever, of which more later.)

This attack came closer to people I know than any I’ve seen before; I’ve been out in that area multiple times, it’s one of my favourite areas of London for daytime fun and really close to where a BFF used to work, and also close to a gay clubbing district. A friend of mine missed being in the area by two minutes thanks to a late bus. I mean I’m not like, ‘shaken up’ as I’d describe it, but I definitely had an eek moment looking at the map and recognising how very well I know it.

I am somewhat sceptical of the value of stoicism, even as I think there’s definite benefit to be had, mentally as well as practically, from moving on and not making a fuss. I think it’s fine to admit when we’re scared, even as there’s benefit to us mentally in considering ourselves warriors and not backing down. So I feel a bit torn on the tone to take here; I don’t want to dismiss the tragedy of the deaths and injuries, or make people feel bad if they do feel scared. Several people (especially my students, none of whom are natives) have told me they feel anxious and I think those people probably also feel a bit shamed by all the RARGH LONDON’S NOT SCARED stuff.

But also, nation reeling, New York Times? Are we fuck. We’ve been blown up by a better class of bastard than this.

Honestly, almost as much as after the Westminster attack, I’m somewhat irritated by media hand-wringing over how emotional Londoners all supposedly are, especially by contrast to the silence over the sixty-eight Syrian children who died that same week. FFS, the Westminster Tube was open again the same night; the Chicken Cottage in Borough was open again on Sunday. We keep calm and carry on.

To such an extent, actually, that a 19-year-old Parisian student questioned me over our lack of reaction to Manchester: why hadn’t the Queen made a speech? (Because Theresa May did, and the Queen only makes speeches for really big things.) Why didn’t we have a minute of silence? (We did, but it was during the break - honestly the teachers didn’t observe it, though.) I talked about the idea of a stiff upper lip, and that we were very sad in private but didn’t bring it to work, and he was clearly still weirded out: he asked if that meant we had a stiff upper lip over other people’s tragedies. I explained that no, not at all - it’s not an idiom you’d use for other people’s tragedies, but Manchester was an attack on us all. He wasn’t rude, but clearly felt we were all very cold-blooded and unfeeling. But then I imagine, as he’s nineteen, that he was probably at secondary school during the Paris attacks, and secondary schools have a totally different responsibility in terms of helping students process compared to an adult language school.

Besides, London isn’t Paris. When my mum was my age she worked about ten minutes from where I do in central London, and got evacuated on the regular cos of IRA bomb threats. The Troubles are very recent history, and so we all follow protocol there automatically: no oxygen of publicity for terrorists, and we’ll all carry on. Hopefully we can do better on the understanding and lack of torture front than we did there or have done so far.

Seeing the Union Jack projected onto monuments around the world was very touching, but I’m so deeply uncomfortable with the level of sympathy aimed at London. 68 Syrian kids died (of a total death toll of 126) the same week as Westminster; this week Pakistan lost dozens of people to an attack on a hospital. Idk, I really don’t want to be comparing death tolls and deciding who gets more sympathy, but it’s such a stark illustration of whose lives matter for the Western world at large.

I’m going to try to focus on the stories about the heroes - the Romanian baker who bashed a terrorist’s face in with a crate, the Albanian waiters bringing everyone in and facing them off, the guy slashed four times as he protected someone else.

IDK. I’m so conflicted. Not least because May was Home Secretary for years and has more responsibility than any other single person for the massive police cuts of recent years, but I also really don’t want this election to be about terrorism. And I’ve cried more than once over Manchester and feel like I should have more feelings about what’s happened here. But it wasn’t an attack aimed at children, and it is something that happens here. The deaths and injuries are terribly sad, but it’s not taking up much mental space and I’m not scared. I don’t want to be flippant, but… as Sadiq said a while ago, this threat is part of being a global capital. It’s part of life here.

And I go through Oxford Street every morning at 9am, so it’s not like I’m being callous because the threat is irrelevant to me: I’ve seen coppers with massive guns at my Tube stop a time or two, which is really, really unusual here. (On that note - thank fuck for gun control. They killed and injured so many people with knives. Every time I think of what would’ve happened if they’d had guns, I go cold.) But my favourite of our national traits are the sense of humour and the ability to deal with things without fuss, and I really am not going to put with us being made into tragic or cowed figures. Macho declarations of strength annoy me. But I like our resilience.

Time to take a tip from our sister city. We won’t take defeat and we don’t want your pity.

I’ve been meaning to repost this. It’s really beautiful.

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