It was just shy of 7pm in Toronto; I pulled into my driveway and was about to turn off the ignition when I heard that startling interruption on the radio “late breaking news – an explosion has been reported at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester England – there are casualties.” MANCHESTER? While my parents and I left Manchester to become new immigrants to Canada as I was but an infant, my frequent visits and strong family bonds make that northern city of Britain forever a second home. I franticly began texting and reaching out to family and friends seeking assurances of their safety. “Everyone okay???? I just heard the news.” A cousin responded back several minutes later, “What news?” Such is the reality of today’s world of instant information – I was aware of the bombing 5700 kilometres away before my Manchester cousin who is living there. As the tragic and horrific magnitude of the cowardly suicide attack unfolded I was sickened by this latest act of nonsensical violence. I have daughters the age of many of the concertgoers. I intensely watched news of the bombing over the next several days and most chilling to me was listening to that all too familiar and distinctive Mancunian dialect uttered by grief-stricken eyewitnesses and the parents and relatives of the missing and killed. A dear Manchester friend posted the following on Facebook days after the attack:
“We’ve had 2 teenage girls, separately, with their mums come in to the shop this afternoon … both were at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. One was too scared [to have] me closing the curtain to the fitting room to try a top on and the other wouldn’t talk at all – it’s so scary and when they left, I burst into tears.”
In addition to the shock and horror, not surprisingly the chorus of hate and venom appeared from the usual quarters both here in my community, abroad and from the White House. The edicts of anti-immigration, “send them back” and impose the Muslim travel ban rang loud and clear once again. One of my ongoing struggles is to try and comprehend what the haters hope to achieve in a practical sense by indirectly slinging their invectives at a broad group of Muslims or any identifiable group for that matter. I say indirectly because they habitually preach such nonsense and vitriol to their own choir of haters – their base! Former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore said on TV in the wake of yet another UK terror attack and other disconcerting news (attack in London and the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change):
“We have a saying in Tennessee, if you find a turtle on top of a post you know he didn’t get up there by himself.”
Such is the underlying message of our own individual responsibility and ability to confront the hate we see in our daily lives. We, I am entitled to express sadness and outrage at the senseless loss of life and innocents maimed for life, but it ought to stop there. I am neither a politician nor a member of our police or armed services. Neither are most of you. All we can do is to either show love or hate. That is a choice. Therein lies our genuine power and ultimately the ability to make a difference.
In the wake of what are likely to be more terrorist attacks to come, I hope we can stand up to intolerance, to polarization, to incitement and see the good that is inherent in most living all around us.