The death of the former IRA commander Martin McGuinness has provoked a ferocious debate about whether he was a peacemaker or a butcher.
For all the semantics of historical judgement, a day after his death London suffered the type of crime that McGuinness was regularly accused (but never convicted) of orchestrating.
The March 22 attacks on London were a sombre reminder of our morality, as well as our vulnerability to terror. Now the UK mourns three deaths and 22 wounded innocents while we all soulfully ponder if today’s conflicts will ever be resolved.
Great Britain has been dealing with terrorism on its shores for as long as people on this island have existed. Over the last half millennium alone, the British Isles have seen religious and political extremists sack cities and spill the blood of civilians innumerable times over.
Our island story is replete with examples of detainment, torture and slaughter in the name of political objectives and ‘contemporary’ terrorism has continuously occurred since the 1930s and the troubles in Ireland.
The events in London are not new, even if the pain they bring is, and the emergency services, the public outcry and the response of ordinary people to extraordinary circumstances is a source of pride for us all.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, received criticism from Donald Trump’s eldest son for saying that terror attacks are “part and parcel of living in a big city”. In the actual context of his words, it’s clear that Khan rightly meant that the risk of terror is greater in metropolitan areas and thus Londoners must be vigilant.
All evidence of terrorist incidents in the West over the last 15 years would support this. Shining beacons of liberty, freedom and multiculturalism that have endured for hundreds of years will always be a tempting target to ideologues and fascists.
One wonders if Khan would have received equal criticism had he warned that Hitler will always have his eyes set on London as long as the Nazi regime stands. Political capitals are officious, but they’re also symbols of justice and freedom which will always earn the enmity of cowards.
The irony of any attack on London is that it’s a special kind of museum for centuries-old hatreds which have transformed into a successful, multicultural peace. It is not perfect, and if it’s not always a simpatico example of multiculturalism then it’s certainly a melting pot of hatreds that have been confined to the past.
Breaking the soul of the British experience is impossible. It has no singular constitution to burn. It’s flags and loyalties are divided and parliaments dispersed.
Its strength is in its people. And its people have a proven record of not kowtowing to the wickedness and brutality of cowards.
Churchill was half right. It’s not ‘we will’ never surrender but ‘we have never’ surrendered. And we won’t.