As you’ll probably have sussed, current events don’t often appear on this blog, but today is an exception, in that it was supposed to be a day of celebrating friends (my respiratory group is 5 years old this month). I set the alarm early so I could have a nice relaxing bath (with water jets! 😀 ), woke and turned on the bedroom TV only to discover that something terrible happened last night in Manchester.
A bomb went off as thousands of young children and teens were leaving an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena. The blast went off in the foyer/lobby where people were buying souvenirs before going to get on transport home, or back to hotels. 22 are dead – the youngest, only 8 years old. 59 people have been seriously injured, and many more, less so. Islamic State has claimed responsibility.
Reaction is pretty much as expected with these things – except there is the added horror at the blatant targeting of such young people and children. There were large groups of children present with their schools or youth clubs.
There are tales of courage and kindness coming out of a subdued and quiet central Manchester today. People helping the wounded and shocked out of the stricken building; passing traffic and taxis ferrying people to safety; strangers offering stranded people a room in their homes, or hotel rooms. And of course the bravery and professionalism of the emergency services and the hospitals.
I went to my celebratory lunch, at a seaside pub as planned. We did not talk about what went on last night. Well, I did not, and I didn’t hear anyone else either. Not out of disrespect, but because some of the people attending have been very ill this year and there was a lot of catching up to be done, and happier things to discuss. But I was thinking about this a lot, which is why I’ve come back home to my keyboard, and onto here to share my thoughts, because words and not weapons are what are needed today and I want mine to last a little longer than the few moments of breath it takes to say them. Or the nano-seconds of the sound of a bomb going off takes to destroy lives and loves.
The pen is mightier than the sword.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839, from the play, Cardinal Richelieu
The fluid it spills last longer for one thing, whether or not it’s on paper, or strung out in cyber-space.
Words can, of course, be used as weapons. To repel, to insult, to fight off an attack, or to intentionally wound the soul. They can even kill, but, for the most part, using words postpones violence, literally keeping a path open for dialogue and resolution, rather than conflict. To convey understanding, rather than incite mayhem and pain.
Which found me in the rather strange position of agreeing with something that US President, Donald Trump said.
Don’t call these terrorists ‘monsters’. They’ll like that. They’re losers.
I paraphrase, but the statement stands. Words imbue status. Use them carefully.
I leave you with an image I use on social media a fair bit.
It’s a quote, out of context, from one of the tales in ‘Sexing the Cherry’ by Jeanette Winterson. It’s about a city where words have a life of their own. Here’s the quote in case you can’t see the print
the words tumbled him over in their desire to be free, and were seen flying across the city in the shape of doves.
Those soft words were supposedly spoken in a frenzy of forbidden love, that resulted in the couple suffocating. They were found by a priest, who made haste to release the deadly words from the small belfry room in the cathedral, with the above results.
So today, instead of keeping my words prisoner in my head, I release them to you in memorial of such a tragic, unwarranted loss of life, and the thought that we must always choose our words well and wisely. As weapons for love, peace, the communion of solace, and to refute all that is savage, hateful and just plain wrong, wrong, wrong.