Saturday, 18 June 2016

Jo Cox - More in Common

On Thursday a graduate of the same college as I went to in Cambridge was murdered. She was a 41-year old mother of two. Her name was Jo Cox. Soon the referendum hubbub was silenced. The press changed its usual tune from cynicism to praising politicians. We were reminded that people can and do enter the political arena, not from selfish ambition but out of the desire to make the world a better place.

Jo Cox had spent most of her working life in humanitarian service with Oxfam, Save the Children and the NSPCC. Within a year of being elected to Parliament in 2015, she was jointly chairing the all party Syria group and speaking up for the Syrian refugee children stranded in Europe. And yet on Thursday outside her Yorkshire constituency office, she was attacked and killed by a sick man who in court gave his name as "Death to traitors, freedom for Britain", whose real name is Thomas Mair and who seems to have been obsessed with neo-Nazi literature. Whether the man was influenced by the xenophobia peddled by some politicians and journalists, whether he disliked Jo Cox's pro-European stance, or simply her willingness to mix with support people of all colours, races and creeds, or whether he was suffering from an acute mental illness, we can't know. Perhaps it was a lethal cocktail of all of them.

Until her attack and death hit the news, I confess I did not know about her. But as her story and the tributes from all directions poured in, I soon gathered what an exceptional and lovely person she was, as is her husband, Brendan. When she died, he tweeted this touching photo of her beside the boat that was their London home on the Thames. The more I read, the more I thought, "She would have made a really great prime minister." To which Jane commented, "Not that I'd have wished it on her." However, in my view, she had the quality and talent that would have made her one of the best prime ministers of modern times. (Not a great accolade, you might think.)

One of the quotations that has appeared on Facebook since Thursday is poignant. The words with which it ends are especially so, because as history would have it she did risk life and limb, for the sake not only of her children but also for the thousands who have no one to speak for them. And the path she took cost her life.
I'm not sure that the by-line "Another angry voice" quite captures the spirit of Jo Cox. I suspect it is better represented by the man who knew her best, her husband, in the remarkable statement he issued on Thursday:

“Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. More difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love. I and Jo’s friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo.

 “Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.

“She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.

“Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full.”

As one of my friends commented, "Love wins." We have to believe it. We have to work at it. We have to love.

One way you can express a little love is to contribute to Jo Cox's Fund, set up in her memory by her friends and family, at GoFundMe.

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