Wouldn’t it be good if the lasting image of the Manchester bombing was that homes, hotels and taxi drivers opened their doors to those who were in distress and trying to escape the horror?
What a superb counter-response to this act of terror – if what was intended to bring fear and separation instead results in openness and therefore vulnerability.
There is nothing so powerful as opening your door to a stranger and allowing their distress to affect you. It is a re-enactment of the Good Samaritan, who did not serve someone he knew but reached out to a stranger and showed solidarity in a shared humanity.
This incident takes place in the middle of our general election campaign. It’s as if this act is a sick reminder of the privileges and freedoms we enjoy in Britain today. Here we are, in the midst of a period of time when the people have a direct opportunity to determine government and – to some extent – the direction of the country. And here we are, with an act of terror aimed at those very freedoms we are in the middle of exercising. Our right to free association, freedom of expression, or our ability to choose how to live.
There are tensions in the UK. We are not a homogeneous mass of agreed mediocrity. There are huge issues to deal with and no clear painless solutions. We can hear the debates and strong words between the political parties and candidates, but the angst in our political debate comes from our inherent hope! We hope for change, for something better. When our politics and politicians don’t live up to these aspirations, it is that failure to live up to hope that propels the debate and gives rise to the vitriol in political campaigning. It is the hope – hope in a better future, not the lack of hope – that gives rise to the peaceful passion in our politics.
Our parties want a better Britain. Our democracy is built on the underlying expectation of improvement and unity. This is so much better than any aim to produce separation and fear. There may be a period of mourning and a suspension of campaigning, but let’s not let that last too long. Our democracy and freedom of speech must never be dulled in volume by acts of terror and fear. Like the people of Manchester, we must remain open for business, whether our business be entertainment, education, health or even politics.