I have nothing but love for the grieving, and defiance at the notion that we might lose yet more civil liberties and face more hate crimes directed at Muslims and brown people. But I can't share the experience of all my Facebook friends who say they're in tears (or even coveting Katy Perry's clothes) watching the concert tonight. So strong is the pressure to perform the proper kind of reaction that I still worry someone will hate me for being callus or fine with terrorism, or whatever.
But I just felt like most of the work of terrorists, who often kill themselves or end up being killed in swift order like in London last night, is done by others: by the 24-hour rolling news and the tabloids baying for blood and the politicians happy to rescind our civil liberties as if that'll make us any safer, the national and international reaction making a city into a symbol.
I'm grateful to that article for saying what I worried only I was feeling:
It’s not a particularly amazing city or a huge symbolic target; it’s just an ordinary city that was probably chosen for small, ordinary, horrible reasons.Indeed, it seems like Manchester wasn't "chosen" at all, it's just where the guy who did it lived. It wasn't selected as being particularly able to withstand this. Indeed, I think it's much better to believe that any group of humans anywhere could be as resilient, as willing to offer free taxi rides home, blood donations, or millions in charity donations as Manchester has been. Humans are good anywhere.
Of course Mancunians opened their homes and brought out free sandwiches and hurried into emergency rooms to save lives, and God bless every one of them. But they did that because they’re people, not because they were Mancunians. The vast majority of the time, disaster brings out the best in people, wherever and whomever they are. They’d have done the same in Sheffield, and we’d all be talking about the stoic hospitality of Yorkshire folk.
After making good points about how unlikely terrorism is in the west, and how much bigger a deal is made of it here than cities that experience these things regularly despite undoubtedly also being full of kind and helpful people, the article finishes with stuff that still makes me nod vehemently even though I've read it many times now.
The rush for articles about the wonderful spirit of Manchester is in part a desperation to fill pages before we know facts, and it’ll only get worse. “I shall not murder / The mankind of her going with a grave truth,” wrote poet Dylan Thomas of a child incinerated in the Blitz. “Nor blaspheme down the stations of her breath / With any further / Elegy of innocence and youth.”"Don't Look Back in Anger" is definitely the worse song for this, in case you were wondering. Sorry.
But that’s what will happen with the children killed in Manchester over the next few days and weeks. There’s something obscene about our lust for sentimental suffering, in which the awful, meaningless deaths of children will become the fodder of tear-jerking tabloid pages. The cheap emotion of it distracts us from the hard work of real compassion, the daily grind of kindness.
Manchester is a good, ordinary city where something awful has happened. It’s full of decent people who will cope with shock, horror, and loss in the same ways people do every day, everywhere. It doesn’t need to be anything more.