Sticks and stones

Another false start on the finding-mindfulness-on-the-morning-commute front today, when a Daily Mirror-reading (says it all?) suited businessman took umbrage at my claiming a vacant seat he’d deemed to be his and spat the word “Bitch” in my face to vocalise his distaste.

Fortunately my recent mindfulness teachings have, if nothing else, shown me the correct way to respond to such an insult is not to retaliate by shouting “Wanker!” in his face to see how he likes it (as my old self would have found it hard not to do), but rather to take the higher ground, smile serenely and turn away – which, as it turns out, serves to infuriates such people even more.

Now I’m not sexist, but the fact I was not only a woman but a rather unwell one at that (my horrible cough being testament to this fact) would, in most people’s books, be enough to qualify my right to the seat – and that’s without taking into account the fact I was standing right next to the seat in question whereas he was standing beside it. In the world of tube train etiquette surely no one would dispute it was I, therefore, who held the commuter right of way?

Then we have the insult itself. That this man (at least 15 years my senior, I would guess, but nonetheless perfectly able to stand for the duration of his journey) allowed himself to be so riled by a 31 year old plague victim having the audacity to sit in a vacant seat right in front of her is ludicrous enough – but to call me a bitch for doing so? Dog analogies aside (I doubt he’d see the irony of dogs never requiring seats on the tube-if only I’d thought to ask him at the time), the word bitch implies – to my mind at least – some degree of malice. How he could have perceived me as malicious for being equally as keen to sit down on my journey to work as him I simply cannot fathom.

But enough about this sad little man and his misplaced anger – he’s had more airtime than he deserves already. Let him walk around in a rage against the world, because in the end the only person he’s hurting is himself.

Fight hate with love

Like many I was shocked and horrified to hear of the bombs that rocked yesterday’s Boston marathon, killing three – among them an 8 year old boy – and injuring many more. When I expressed my outrage at this latest tragic atrocity, however, I was shocked when someone challenged me to explain why it was any more tragic than the almost daily bombings in Iraq or Syria.

Ever since it was asked of me that question’s been playing on my mind in a loop – in much the same way as the video clip of the Boston marathon bombs going off has been played on every network since it happened. Did I feel more sad hearing about the marathon victims than when I heard news reports of innocent civilians being blown apart in Iraq? If so, what did that say about me? Was it possible some form of racism, classism or snobbery had crept into my consciousness without me even noticing its existence? Did I, in truth, value the lives of those people in Iraq less than the lives of the marathon spectators?

After a thorough period of introspection I’m pleased to say the answer to those questions was a resounding no. Whether they lost their lives in Boston or Iraq, I feel the same deep sense of sadness, the same feeling of shame that there are other human beings capable of such terrible acts of malice and hatred against their fellow men, women and children. The Boston bombings aren’t, therefore, more tragic; not at all. But, for those of us in the western world who are fortunate not to live in war torn countries, it is more shocking. Why? Because, quite simply, it’s far less common for a bomb to go off in the middle of a marathon taking place in an American city than it is on a normal day in an Iraqi city.

And there’s another reason. We see so many international news reports featuring the images of bloodied, limbless children’s corpses and wailing men and women beating their chests with grief that we are systematically desensitised to their effects. We’re used to death in Iraq and Syria. What we’re not used to is death in our own communities – or at least not the kind of death we witnessed yesterday in Boston.

No matter where terrorism strikes it sends shockwaves through not only the community whose beating heart it strikes, but also across the world. But whilst each time they strike the terrorists may think that they are winning the fight, what their hate-filled hearts will never comprehend is that through love for our fellow men it is we who will win the war.

I fell completely head over heels with this, a tiny model scene in the wall of a toilet in a Manhattan restaurant. I think it’s quite appropriate given the end of today’s post.