July 08, 2005

Instilling Courage Without Fear-Mongering

Josh Marshall has posted the full speech of London's Mayor, Ken Livingston, in response to the terrorist attacks in London. I wanted to comment on one part of his speech:

Following the al-Qaeda attacks on September 11 in America we conducted a series of exercises in London in order to be prepared for just such an attack. One of the exercises undertaken by the government, my office and the emergency and security services was based on the possibility of multiple explosions on the transport system during the Friday rush hour. The plan that came out of that exercise is being executed today, with remarkable efficiency and courage, and I praise those staff who are involved.

Iíd like to thank Londoners for the calm way in which they have responded to this cowardly attack and echo the advice of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair - do everything possible to assist the police and take the advice of the police about getting home today.

...I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.

That isnít an ideology, it isnít even a perverted faith - it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the International Olympic Committee, that the city of London is the greatest in the world, because everybody lives side by side in harmony. Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why Iím proud to be the mayor of that city.

Here is a leader calling out the best and bravest part of the people who elected him and for whom he accepted responsibility based on their trust. He is not using this horrendous occasion to pander to their fear or to their paranoia. And although he is quite rightly angry with the terrorists, he is not using the occasion to set one group of Londoners against the other. There is no demagoguery in his speech. And he does not treat the citizens of London as little children who are told "watch your neighbor" and "we, the administration, will take care of the important things". In fact, what Livingston did was recognize and call out the rational and courageous part of the people in his city. He reenforced their sense of togetherness despite the differences in their race, religion, ethnic background, political philosophy, etc. And the people of London are behaving in the courageous and sensible manner that he expected them to act.

So my question is, what would we see in the US if we had another terrorist attack? I believe that one of the worst things about our current government and the nasty, divisive manner in which they operate is that they pander to the worst elements in human nature. They use divisive and destructive language to marginalize a significant portion of the country. They treat the ordinary citizen as little children who should leave worrying about anything important to the "leaders". After 9/11, people were told that it was patriotic to shop. And just recently, we were told to "support the troops" by adopting a family, but never would we be asked to sacrifice for the cause by having to forego something such as an increase in income taxes to pay for the war, or rationing how many gallons of gasoline we purchase or how many BTUs we use in our houses. And rather than asking people to show courage in the face of frightening times, this administration uses the terror threats to frighten and stampede people into giving up more rights and any rational assessments of the problem. This is an administration that encourages irrational thought and hysteria.

So do you thing that Americans will be proud of how they react if another attack happens on our soil? Do you think that they will use the occasion to pull together and to encourage rational and effective responses to the incidents? Or is it more likely that those who believe "the ends justify the means" will think that a future attack would be an ideal time to attack the traitorist liberals and Democrats and to use the incident in order to consolidate power by calling to the most base and destructive part of human nature? Well, what has been this administration's track record? If (or more likely when) America has another terrorist attack on our soil, I fear our dysfunctional administration will take a bad situation and most assuredly make it worse.

Posted by Mary at July 8, 2005 07:27 AM | War on Terrorism | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |


Thanks for that post. Hope you don't mind but I've forwarded it to my boss (Ken Livingstone) - best thing of all is that he really does mean it.

Posted by: Spicy at July 8, 2005 11:26 AM

Spicy, I'm honored that your boss will hear of my reaction. My thoughts and prayers go with you all in London. May you all keep your courage and resolve despite the horrors of this attack.

Posted by: Mary at July 9, 2005 02:07 AM


Life has gone back to normal here in London - after so many years of living with the IRA, we have learned to take such events in our stride in a way that I think must be more difficult for Americans who have so much less experience of terrorism on their soil.

I hasten to add that this is not meant to imply any kind of superiority. I'm guessing (as I wasn't around then) but we probably responded in the same way in the early days - tempered - of course - by our famous stiff upper lips. ;)

One thing that has been heartwarming in the aftermath has been the strong emphasis by politicans, police, pundits and so on that this was an attack on our diversity and that further strengthening and celebrating this is the way to defy the terrorists.

Posted by: spicy at July 9, 2005 09:33 AM