4 February 2015

Last week I attended the Holocaust Memorial event at the Cenotaph, where local dignitaries and local schoolchildren laid wreaths and we were invite to remember the victims of genocides past and recent. The gathering afterwards at the Friends’ Meeting House was especially poignant, as individuals representing groups and others representing only themselves took the opportunity to share words which seemed to them appropriate to the occasion.

Among the things that moved me most were the challenge that we are invited, currently – urged, even – to look for the differences between us, and dwell on those. We are encouraged in some quarters to find in these differences reasons to dislike, blame, belittle or view as less deserving than ourselves, those individuals and communities who are not exactly like us.

This is desperately sad and shaming to us all, and goes against the very best of all our natures. We are inclined, I think, to look for the common ground with others so long as we are left to do so without an environment of fear or blame or poverty driving us to scapegoat each other.

Don’t we all delight in those small samenesses that we meet in strangers? Don’t drivers of the same kind of car – certain cars, anyway! – flash headlights at each other to say ‘hello’? Don’t we talk to strangers in the street if they’re wearing a T-shirt advertising our favourite band, or reading our favourite book? Don’t we say to a harassed and apologetic parent on the bus ‘It’s alright, mine did the same – he’s twenty now!’ or some similar friendly thing?

What we’re really saying is ‘I’m like you’.

If we let those who benefit from divisions have their way, we’d all be looking at each other through lenses of fear and dislike, and all of us, and our rich and mixed community, will be the poorer and the more afraid and the more isolated as a result.

Remember the victims of genocides past, recent, and ongoing. Remember Paris’s journalists and Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. Remember those detained, punished and killed for their race, faith, politics, disabilities, gender or sexual orientation, and ask yourself who’d stand up for you if some aspect of your identity or physical self rendered you at risk of that kind of treatment.

We’re all different. We’re all human. We all deserve to be treated with courtesy. We all have a unique story to share.

We all bleed red

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