We in Britain are reeling from the murder of one of our members of parliament, Jo Cox. She was just 41 years old, and left a husband and two young children.
It so happens that most of you who read this blog are Americans, and right now you too are reeling at an awful tragedy in which 49 people died, and many more wounded.
More broadly, both countries seem to be experiencing deep divisions. These revolve around the contrasting, but deeply-held, visions different sections of the community have for our societies. In America you call it the culture wars.
On my visits to the USA as well as in conversations with your countrymen over here, I have spoken with men and women on both sides of the divide, and I have been taken aback by the mutual contempt and suspicion which is sometimes voiced.
But here in Britain we too are at war with ourselves. This has been all too evident in the referendum we are now having over whether to be part of Europe or not (and the murder of Jo Cox may turn out to be a by-product of this). It has become a bitter and personal shouting match, in whuch scoring points seems to be more important than arguments made.
I want to quote the murdered MP Jo Cox, which I feel is so relevant to the situations in both our countries. In her maiden speech in the House of Commons she said, in talking about her multi-ethnic constituency:
“While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
We have to realise that we share so much in common. We are human beings. We love our families so very much. We do have different beliefs, but hey, we live in a democracy, so we work out our differences by talking and voting, not shouting and loathing. Tolerance is an essential ingredient in a democratic society – at least it is if its citizens want to keep it that way. And actually, what about this radical idea: even if we don’t agree with one another, what about showing some respect for each other?
Or maybe that’s going a bit far.
By Peter Britton