17 June 2016

From Joy to Sadness

I have so thoroughly enjoyed my time in Europe over the past year.  It is hard for me to believe that my family will be flying home in about six weeks.  I have also enjoyed using my blog for a sabbatical journal.  I've been able to record thoughts on holidays my family has taken, and I've noted times when I've interacted with media and given talks.  There has been some sports science writing, too, which is how this blog got started.  At the beginning of this week I put a few words in this space that pertained to the massacre in Orlando.  And now something else has happened to motivate me to write outside my comfort zone.

Just before 2 pm yesterday, my research colleague and I joined a couple of his colleagues and watched England's thrilling 2-1 win over Wales.  We all felt joy as England pulled out the win with an exciting goal late in the match.  But in the middle of the match, my colleague checked his phone and saw that an MP from West Yorkshire had been stabbed and shot.  That was big news, partly because gun crime is so rare here and partly because the last time an MP was murdered was in 1990.  My colleague said the name Jo Cox, and though I'm not sure, that may have been the first time I heard her name.  I've watched and read a lot of BBC while living here.  And I've followed the Brexit debates rather closely.  It is entirely possible I've heard the name Jo Cox before, but I don't remember.  It takes awhile for a visitor like me to learn all the names and places involved in important issues.

When I got home from work, my wife and I learned that Jo Cox had died from her wounds.  I spent a little time last night getting to know her from various websites.  She pursued ethical and humane solutions to the problems in Syria.  She saw it as a moral obligation to help migrants fleeing the strife in Middle East conflicts.  Her website highlights recent efforts to help people with cancer.  And some deranged individual takes her life because, from all reports I've read, he hated her position on the Brexit issue.  Wow.  A woman who has done more good for more people than her murderer could fathom is dead because of her political stances.

Hatred of the "other" is a powerful motivator for some people.  I've seen too much of it my country, and it's sad to see it here in England.  Less than a week ago, 49 people were slain because of hate, fear, and credulity.  And I may be guilty of possessing the brain state based on the fact that the more people killed in a given atrocity, the more abstract the event becomes for those not directly affected.  After all, it is much easier and less time consuming to read about one murdered MP than it is to read about 49 victims of a mass shooting.  It may not be fair, but that's the way it is.

There will always be certain stories that tug at our empathy.  I learned that Jo Cox is survived by a husband and two children, ages 3 and 5.  Seven years ago, my family was preparing to leave England.  I was nearing the end of my first sabbatical, also spent at the University of Sheffield.  My daughters at that time were ages 3 and 5.  I cannot even imagine leaving England then without their mother.  Putting aside what my own grief would have been like, I cannot even imagine what my girls' lives would have been like in the past seven years without their extraordinary mother.  It is empathy that plays a large role in the solidarity we humans have with each other.  And it is empathy that makes me feel sick to my stomach when I think about what happened yesterday.

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