TAKING to the streets of Loughborough on Saturday afternoon to publicise a campaign to abandon our nuclear weapons just a few days after the Manchester bombing was a challenge – but also a necessity, in my view.
The ‘challenge’ is that after an event of that magnitude, the reaction of understandably traumatised folk is often one of violence – revenge, wipe them out, make sure this can never happen again etc etc etc.
You don’t have to be directly involved in the event to be in this state. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that millions of us suffered a form of ‘post traumatic stress syndrome’ after the death/murder of Princess Diana in 1997 and the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001.
And it is often in the midst of such a natural emotional reaction that draconian policies are introduced that change our landscape for ever.
The result of 9/11, of course, was the appalling and nonsensical ‘War on Terror’, with terror suddenly neatly defined largely as Muslim extremists with a violent agenda against the West.
The aftermath of Manchester has seen the army take to the streets in what we hope and presume is a temporary measure – but look not so far away to France and you’ll see that could easily become more permanent.
So how do the people of Loughborough and Manchester react to events such as the outrageous killing of 22 innocent people in the MEN Arena?
Everyone is different, of course, but there is nothing like the perception of a ‘common enemy’ to bring usually divided people together.
We are once again reminded of our constant narrative – attack on our democracy, our way of life and values, we must never let the ‘terrorists’ win……
With this in mind, anyone who points out that we, as a country, are far from innocent in our foreign policy can easily be regarded as unpatriotic, almost a traitor.
They accuse such folk of ‘making excuses for the terrorists’, of claiming that the bombing of young children at a pop concert could somehow be justified.
But that’s not our point at all – infact the very opposite.
Members of Loughborough Peace Group, who again hosted our information stall in the town centre on Saturday, don’t believe that violence can be right – whether it is ‘our’ violence, or that of fellow human beings, brothers and sisters, we believe are our ‘enemy’.
If I took to the streets carrying a gun – ‘because I need to have a weapon to defend myself’ – would I, or more to the point fellow Loughborough residents, actually be any safer?
I’d respectfully suggest not.
So it is with nuclear weapons. The very fact we have them singles us out as one of the participants and targets in a drama that could yet result in the destruction of the world as we know it.
Do we honestly feel ‘safe’ right now? We may have a mighty arsenal at our country’s disposal to ‘defend’ us but, individually, we are vulnerable to the equally violent whims of people who regard our way of life in much the same way as we do theirs.
This can only produce the most uneasy of peaces. The type of peace whereby the only reason we are not under a more sustained attack is the fear we may blow them apart in retaliation.
Instead we need to begin to see – as many of us already do – that the message of Manchester is that violence from all quarters of the globe has brought us to our knees, the very verge of destruction.
Yes, we must ‘stand together’ but not as the people of Manchester against their enemy, but as human beings committed to peace, both in our personal lives and in the world as a whole.
And we can’t do that whilst pointing the most awful weapons yet known to mankind pointing in the direction of our brothers and sisters.
The current initiative by the United Nations to try to ban nuclear weapons from the world is potentially one of the most exciting and important of our troubled times- yet the United Kingdom, the United States, indeed all the other nuclear states refuse to come to the table.
We, as individuals, demonstrated we are willing to do just that on Saturday by campaigning against Trident, the monstrosity with the capacity to kill and maim countless people at an obscene cost of £205 billion.
The reaction of many locals was actually quite promising – despite my sceptical note, I believe the tide towards peace is turning.