Standing beside people in their suffering is the best way to counter hate

Nov 8, 2018 by

by Gavin Ashenden:

If the Grenfell effigy idiots are criminals under the Public Order Act, why aren’t the Lewes bonfire societies?

‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ used to be the address to have or the place to live if you wanted to write to the newspapers in outrage.

Luckily, disgust and outrage are no longer restricted to ratepayers in West Kent. Hardened as I am to bad taste and poor judgement, even my jaw dropped when I saw the online videos of the callous idiots celebrating bonfire night by burning an effigy of the Grenfell tower.

It turned out that they were as careless as they were callous. They shared the video on Whatsapp; being lured into a sense of false security perhaps by its ‘this is a highly encrypted app’ notice. It took one click from a disapproving ‘friend’ to move it to twitter and send it viral.

Actually, I’ve felt a similar wave of disgust before. I used to live near Lewes in East Sussex where they have a famous bonfire night celebration.

Thousands of people march through through Lewes each year down cramped dark streets following a procession of an enormous effigy of a much-hated public figure. The originally despised Guido Fawkes soon got replaced with the pope, but the hate didn’t stop with the pope. Hate never stops with one person.

The Lewes celebrations feel scarily like a Klu Klux Clan event morphed-to-Sussex.  They light seventeen flaming crosses, which they carry through the town. And they are imaginative with their hate. Each year they burn someone new.

This year they burnt effigies of Teresa May and Boris Johnson. They have previously burnt Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and Osama Bin Laden.

I’m not sure I can see a great deal of difference between the celebration of burning public figures in Lewis and the Grenfell tower model. It’s true that the Lewes effigies are public figures, but just because they have decided to run for public office doesn’t mean they deserve to be treated as people who should be burnt in public.  

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