Going to the hospital for a kidney scan — I know, me and my sexy talk — there are security guards at the main door. Smiley, chubby, middle aged — you wouldn’t fancy their chances if they had to chase anything, never mind overpower a marauding horde — they ask to check my bag. Sorry about this, says the tubbiest one, smiles exchanged. Lipstick, phone, book, dog leads. Thanks, darlin’. On I go to my ultrasound.
On the way into a fringe arts event, the same thing. Security guards younger, fitter, with better tattoos. Again, the bag contents squeezed and fondled, even at something as low-profile as an outdoor festival-type thing in a fenced off bit of grass in a seaside town that is not London, not Manchester. And at the theatre that evening – more checking, more smiles. The town is crawling with men with earpieces and stab vests. Naturally it’s all very good humoured and apologetic – there is a tacit ‘sorry about this, love, we don’t believe for one second you have a homemade device concealed under your takeaway falafel salad, but we have to look anyway.’
My chap works at London Bridge. He was at his workplace the day after the attack, business as usual, like all the other Londoners. Unlike Americans, British people tend not to freak out. While the media slavers over every bloody moment, rehashing and draining the last drop of gore from every single incident, ordinary people march on. Clutching their six quid pints, even as they run from the killer morons. (I really resent calling those twats ‘terrorists’. It elevates their status to something a bit too airport novel, instead of the hideous deluded cowards that they are).
And Trump was a great help, wasn’t he? As the London Mayor worked his ass off to rally Londoners to keep calm and carry on (not that this isn’t their default setting anyway), Trump tweeted a barrage of fart-gas in Sadiq Khan’s face. Londoners really did rally then, to their mayor’s defence. And reminded the world that they were very far from ‘reeling’ or ‘cowering’, as the American media breathlessly broadcast. Londoners are hardcore. The only thing that really frightens them are words like ‘Tube strike’ and ‘replacement bus service’. They don’t reel, they don’t cower. And when something awful happens, they even make eye contact with each other.
Killer cowards shouting about Allah delight in division. If their killings can get non-Muslims to hate and fear Muslims, their work is done; equating their actions to the spirit of Islam is like equating the Ku Klux Klan to the spirit of Christianity. There is no link. None. Zero. Nada.
Think instead of that brave young man standing blindfolded in the street with his arms outstretched in Manchester, directly after the concert bombing, with his sign: “I’m a Muslim. I trust you, do you trust me? If you do, hug me.” He got lots of hugs, from all kinds of people. Yet again, we can only choose love.