During today’s ongoing worldwide anti-racist demonstrations, a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol was toppled and unceremoniously dumped in the harbour. You can see the BBC News report of the demonstrations here.
For now though, let’s park our thoughts about the rights and wrongs of tearing down a statue, and simply seek to empathise with how black people would have felt walking past Edward Colston every day. In this highly-charged atmosphere, with the added tensions of coronavirus, we need to keep our focus on the deep issues of racism and white privilege. Let’s discuss these issues respectfully and communicate with grace.
Knowing the history of Bristol, I personally feel that the statue should have been taken down officially and (possibly) placed in a museum long ago. Such an official act could have acknowledged the hurt of the past and brought people together. It could have been a profound moment of repentance, redemption, reconciliation and renewal. Sadly, that moment has been lost.
In these difficult and challenging times we need visionary leaders in all countries and at all levels, unfortunately they currently they seem to be few and far between.
Whilst acknowledging the need to tread carefully and sensitively in any comparisons between the Second World War and the current coronavirus pandemic, I believe there are some useful ones we can make to help us in our thought processes and thereby benefit our collective mental health.
VE Day in 1945 reflected a victory over a visible enemy, although also an invisible enemy of evil thoughts and ideas. The enemy we face now is totally invisible and does not care one iota for those it harms. Fake news is not new, they faced it back then; had they had social media, that would simply have been another front on which the war would have been fought. Today, not only in the coronavirus pandemic, we face a war against those who would deceive us. We need to guard our way of life against those who would lie to us, who seek to destroy the freedoms won for us then.
The Second World War was marked by terrible suffering, the like of which is hard to process, along with the inhumanity of it all. Today, many have been devastated by an invisible enemy, and we pause to remember the lives lost and the families and friends grieving.
Back then the world faced life-treatening jeopardy and, for many today, this is the first time we have faced real jeopardy. Yes, I remember the Cold War, but that’s the only threat that comes anywhere near what we face today. There’s fear and anxiety everywhere, and so we need to affirm, encourage and support each like never before. It’s the same for everyone, yet we all have unique circumstances and all react individually.
Back then, not everyone was celebrating, and for those who were it was only a brief celebration. The world faced an uncertain future and there was much rebuilding to be done, it was many years until food rationing was eased for example. In our own time, we might celebrate relaxations to the lockdown, but we still face the reality of an uncertain future and the prospect of rebuilding society. Then it was a collective experience, so it is today and will be for us. I’m neither being optimistic nor pessimistic; just realistically reflecting that there’ll be much to do in the coming weeks, months and years.
Today we celebrate the heroes of yesterday’s battles, but we also celebrate the new heroes in the NHS and all the key workers fighting a very different battle today. Come to think about it, the creation of the NHS was one of the great rebuilding efforts after WWII, and we are reaping its benefits today.
Who are you celebrating today? What can you do to help and support someone today and in the uncertain future?
Postscript: Today is ‘Victory IN Europe Day’, not ‘Victory OVER Europe Day’ as some history revisionists are suggesting for their own agendas.
Note: I chose the photo for this post because it reminds me of my two youngest girls, Pollyanna (2) and Matilda (3).
Entry to the museum is free, but they do suggest a £5 donation. Even without the Rocket, there’s plenty to see and do for all ages. In the time we had at our disposal it wasn’t possible to see and do everything, so we’ll definitely be back for a return visit sometime.
The museum is a science museum and local history museum situated in Blandford Square in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. It displays many exhibits of local history, including the ship, Turbinia. It is one of the biggest free museums in North East England, and in 2006 was winner of the North East’s Best Family Experience award at the North East England Tourism Awards. It is managed by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. Wikipedia
The exclamation ‘Eureka!’ was allegedly uttered by the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes as he got into a bath and noticed the water level rise, suddenly realising the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body submerged. Consequently, Eureka (Greek: Εύρηκα) has become an interjection used to celebrate a discovery or invention.
It’s also the name of The National Children’s Museum in Halifax which I visited with my family today. We first visited earlier in the year, but thought it was about time for a return visit; especially because you ‘pay once, then play for a year’ with an annual pass. There’s lots of interactive fun for all ages of children, and adults are not admitted unless accompanied by a child – so it’s a safe space.
The focus is on learning through play. It’s run as an educational charity and not-for-profit organisation. It’s aimed at families with children aged 0–11 and encourages hands-on inter-generational learning.
We had a great day, even though it was a long drive, and can wholeheartedly recommend it. No doubt we’ll be there again before our passes expire.