This isn't going to be a football article. I am not to going to speak on behalf of my colleagues or this platform.
This is simply one more post about one more tragedy. Be it vile hatred, a political action or something else entirely. In moments like these, the worst of humanity is brought to the fore. I can't talk about anything else rigjt now, I refuse to think about anything else.
Robert, my mentor at this blog and one of my friends wrote the same words about Paris. He could only process it through writing and I believe that might be the only way I can come to terms with this.
Most of us will all live in big cities. Certainly if you follow teams like Villa and go to games, you will more than likely be from Birmingham like me and frequent the City every day. In Brum, we have avoided a major incident for a long time and not since the Pub Bombings have we had to deal with city wide tragedy. The same cannot be said for Manchester, or London. 7/7 was bad. I remember that we had family in London at the time and that we couldn't reach them, so my whole day at school was preoccupied with 'they might be dead, then'. That is no doubt the feelings of thousands of parents and partners yesterday in the chaos following the Manchester attack. Can you even imagine the horror?
One of the best things in life is our access to communication and information. We depend on this in our lives and it is a foundation of our relationship with people and this world. In an event like yesterday, that communication bubble burst and a pillar of our society disappears in an instant. We can’t talk - phone lines get jammed, phones get lost and people lose their lives. I can’t even imagine the calls of parents over and over, saying pick up, pick up over and over again. God.
Robert also said that he always thought it was a ‘when’ - not an ‘if’ in regards to attacks of these types. Big cities, like his Washington and my Birmingham are always going to be targets and if not them, it will be NYC, Chicago, LA, Jakarta, Brussels, Paris, Glasgow, Dublin. It can happen anywhere. Yesterday, it happened in Manchester and it seems that at some point, we’ll all be close to a situation like that. Not a when, but an if.
Why do these things happen? Who knows. There could be plenty of reasons, there could be none. We can hardly justify any loss of life, but there seems like almost no reason (politically or otherwise) to attack kids and parents at a fucking Ariana Grande concert. They aren’t involved with western politics, imperialism or perceived western barbarism - which would you know, sometimes be pointed out as a possible cause of violence and terror - they were at a concert. You try and justify these things in anyway you can to ground it - not to blame politics, politicians, wars or whatever - but so you can explain something that should not have happened in our world to your frantic brain.
Last night, I was watching live music. My girlfriend adores this weird Avant Garde band called Xiu Xiu. I didn’t have the cash for a hotel and she couldn’t get the time off of work so we had to get a train from Birmingham New Street at 2pm to make it to Kamio in Shoreditch for 8pm and then get a train back to Birmingham New Street from London Euston at 11pm. It was an absolute mission and an exercise in stress. Not least because we had to wade through a crowd of sweaty moaning hipsters to get out early so that we did not miss the train. We could barely walk and burst into a terrible sprint to make the train back. Now, I don’t get signal on trains for some reason. It’s spotty and terrible. However, I got a number of text messages from family members who knew I was at a gig asking me one thing - “where are you, are you ok?”
I think to myself - of course I fucking am, what’s different about today? I went to see a band, how can I not be ok?! How can I not be fine? What is possibly going to happen to me?
Then, you get the news - spotty. Not the news of the blast, but the news of a fucking bomb being found at a train station. I have this stupid news app that sends me clickbait shite - so when there was a hoax or news of a ‘bomb’ being found at Manchester Victoria Station, I received the rather worrying headline of ‘BREAKING: BOMB FOUND AT TRAIN STATION’. You know, when you hear that on a train and you can’t even open the damn app for verification and you can’t get on Twitter and you see that a bomb has been found at a train station, you tend to worry. As my girlfriend slept, I resigned myself to staying up - just in case. About an hour and a half later, I got news. It wasn’t at New Street, or Euston - but in Manchester. It wasn’t a relief, not at all. I got to go see music and get home safe, others - elsewhere - didn’t.
This site? It more than likely has readers in Manchester. We’ve got bloody readers in Lagos, Beijing, DC and Gdansk, so we certainly have readers up north. The news of the attack reached people across the other side of the world faster than it did to me. That’s incredible and scary. We’re all so intertwined - yet not. How can we be so connected yet events like this still occur?
One of the more horrifying aftermaths of the attack on Manchester was the response. These bombings might be political, but there certainly are some out there who will take no time at all in pushing an agenda. They must be hurting, we all are - but when we can get information and connect with others and learn to understand others, why are there those who are trying harder than ever to divide us? There are people who will walk into a concert and scream out the name of their idol before blowing themselves up, there are people who will then use that event to hold high the banner of fear. The sad truth is that this is an almost understandable reaction, but it’s not the right one. Those who walk into concert halls, pubs, bars and whatever with guns, nails, bombs and bullets seek to divide and spread fear. By hoisting that banner into the sky, we are simply furthering their cause.
We won’t fix anything with hate. It’s not duct tape, or a band aid - it’s a caustic acid that throbs in the veins of humankind. We need to purge ourselves of hate and anger, because those are sometimes the same emotions that motivate attacks like this. Every human being with a heart is suffering and is hurt by this attack - that includes Muslims, who were typically blamed before news occurred, and the Irish community, who were also blamed by some. After Paris, after Brussels - Robert stated that if ISIS had carried out the attacks, that doesn’t give us the opportunity to blame an entire religion. Before Paris, ISIS detonated a bomb in Beirut - killing muslims and followers of Islam. As Robert said after Paris - this is a war waged on the entire world by people so full of directionless hate, woe, fear and anger lashing out in the name of anything. This is not Islam, it can’t be. No religion in the world, after severe reformation from the Medieval days calls for the slaughter of children. I’m the strongest atheist I know and even I know that. It’s a complex issue - but hatred is not the answer.
We need to use the tools at our disposal to connect with others, to understand, to help and aid. To put it bluntly, no bombs in the world are powerful enough to destroy sinister ideologies and heresies. They kill people, but they only create hate. With every bomb fired aimlessly into the fucking desert, only hate will emerge. We have the tools and equipment that we need to learn, connect and understand - but we don’t. Even after 9/11, even after Paris, even now - we can’t do the most basic thing and understand. We don’t open conversation with people with opposing views, we don’t do anything. We can be so much better and in the aftermath of tragedy, that does shine through. When you see so many people helping it warms your heart. When you see people drive strangers home, or even open up their homes to others - it really does highlight the best of humanity. What we need to do is, bottle this and use it every day. What are we doing each and every day to make the world a better place? We all have the power to do so - we can signal boost more ignorance or hate, or we can turn it all off and do something - anything. Buy someone a coffee, learn to understand different cultures, just do something to make someone’s day and always be on hand to help those in need. What we can’t do is hate. There is already enough of that in the world?
We can do this, I know we can. It’s going to be the hardest fight in the world - to understand and help others understand, but surely it can be done. Surely. I need to believe that.
We don’t need to get our backs up about others in day to day life, we need to learn to love others. It’s so very easy to hate, but it’s easier to let love in and work to make the world a better place. We can come out of this stronger. I know we can.
I hope we can.
We’re here for you Manchester - and we’ll be here for the next. And the next. You can’t stop us.