I have seen a number of facebook posts over the past few days which challenged those of us who briefly changed our profile picture to reflect our support for the people of France. They challenged us by asking the question – why do you show so much support for France – yet there was a terrorist outrage in Beirut and Baghdad – why do you choose who to grieve over? Implied in this question is – “Do you think a European life is worth more than one in the Middle East?”
The question is simple enough – but it shows a remarkable misunderstanding of the relationship Britain has with France – not over 10 years, not over 100 years – but over 1,000 of years.
The fact that it is implied that grief is something that can be chosen – I’ve decided to weep over the 120 or so dead in Paris – but made a choice not to weep over the 40 or so dead in Beirut says a lot about the person(s) who pose the question. Grief cannot always been chosen but yes IT IS SELECTIVE.
I don’t weep over every name I come across in the obituary section of a newspaper. I don’t weep more if they are British or less because they are asian. Grief in itself is selective and it is about personal connections with the individual or group of people who died.
Let us be clear about the French. Britain has great historical ties with our garlic loving neighbour which are deep rooted and not always favourable.
I understand that there are people whose genealogy within this country only goes back one, two or three generations – and therefore they may not fully understand our affiliation with the land that loves frogs legs and snails [a combination that’s vomit inducing to those of us brought up on mince and chips]. Those with a short British genealogy may feel a strong connection with the middle east because of their family connections – and that is fine and we respect that. But the majority of England, Scotland and Wales DO NOT have connections with Arab countries or the middle east. We are europeans.
France isn’t just another ‘nation’ to us in the UK. Over the centuries Britain and France have ruled, been ruled, argued, agreed, disagreed, joked at, joked with, fought, killed, tunnelled to, laughed at, laughed with, cried, sympathised, & clashed with each other like petulant children.
The people of France – unlike most other European countries – aren’t just a close neighbour – they are like cousins – the swish relatives – the really annoying ones – who find us uncouth and like to imply how smart they are, whilst at the same time – eat way too much smelly cheese and tell us that their house is nicer, food is better and don’t like that we get drunk too much. But deep down you love them all the same & you love them because you know them and have a joined history & past.
So, I don’t apologise for not putting the flags of Beirut or Baghdad on my profile. They have my sympathy. Of course they do. As do the Russians who also lost its people to terrorism. My heart goes out to the 28 British tourists who lost their lives whilst lying peacefully on a in Tunisia. Where was the poster outside the Mosque in Birmingham then condemning terrorism against BRITISH people? Maybe it was there…maybe I just missed it.
It doesn’t really matter. When those close to you suffer – you also suffer. And I refuse to apologise.