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Bring back reason ...

9 July 2005

Lisa Appignanesi

Irony. I first heard that anything was amiss on the day, at around ten, from my daughter who was in a field somewhere in the vicinity of the G8. 'Secure' in a double cordon of police, she was worrying about those of us on the front-line in London.

I turned on one telly, then another, then a radio, all the time trying to get hold of my son whose tube-line could all too easily have coincided with the first of the devastated ones on the screen. There was no response. And no response. Numbness. An internal crossing of fingers.

The hospital rang, but it wasn't about my son. I was being told that my partner who had gone in for a minor op that morning of all mornings was being sent home. There were other priorities.

Then, at last, the news that Josh was fine. He had arrived at the tube when it was already closed and ended up in a taxi. He was amongst the lucky ones. I took a very deep breath.

I recount all this because I'm certain it's a story that can be replicated with slightly different inflections over the entire map of london - and indeed abroad amongst the friends and relatives of visitors. One of its effects is that I find myself weeping (not something I'm prone to) over stories of people who are still searching for loved ones,  or who have suffered loss, or who have been damaged in the fray.

When I go to the greengrocer, the streets feel quiet, the passers-by, the shopkeepers, tender - as if newly aware of human vulnerability.  We all share this fragile carapace, kept in motion by a mere breath. People phone and write from all over the world, aware of it too.

My rage comes at politicians or journalists who want to make political capital out of suffering, score points, settle scores in an endless charade of power or virtue. There are few rights here, but an awful lot of wrongs. It is senseless to say that Britain deserved this for its role in Iraq or Afghanistan; just as it was senseless to say America deserved 9/11. The people who died or suffered were African, European, Asian, from a variety of faiths and none. They certainly didn't deserve terror. No one does.

I don't feel particularly angry at those who may have set off the bombs, kids probably, misguided. Might as well feel angry at the individual African who doesn't wear a condom out of political or papal injunction. My rage is all directed at those men of power - and they are mostly men, in their clerical robes, or politician's suits, or teachers specs - who fill young hotheads with ludicrous and dangerous notions, who divide the world into good and evil, heaven and hell, blameless virtue and capitalist greed, homelands and no-lands, point fingers of blame and send out their crusaders.

Reason has had a bad press these last twenty years or so. Bring it back with all its ordinary everydayness.  At least it will allow us to live together.

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