London: Death, Hope, and Love

This is bad, but could have been much worse. Yesterday evening, starting around 10:00, three people in a van drove across London Bridge, deliberately running down pedestrians.1

After crossing the bridge, they left the van and attacked folks out for an evening with friends and family near Borough Market.

A few minutes later, they were dead; shot by police. They had killed seven folks by then, 48 were taken to hospitals, 36 are still hospitalized, 21 in critical condition, as I write this.

(From H. Attai, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“The white van, in the centre of this photo, is believed to have been used in the attack”
(BBC News))

Responses — and Hope

About a dozen folks have been arrested, suspected of helping the attackers. The UK’s official threat level is still one notch below the highest setting, and I’m sure this will be in the news for days. At least.

I hope that folks in the United Kingdom, particularly those who are in charge, stay comparatively calm and rational.

Situations like this help me be profoundly glad that I don’t enjoy the perks — and responsibilities — of leadership, beyond what’s involved in my role as husband and father, and that’s another topic.

There is, I think, cause for hope:

“…Flowers are laid at the scene, as people come to pay their respects to the victims.

“Imam Abdul Arif, 27, from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, says he wants to ‘show solidarity’.

“‘I’m a Londoner,’ he says. ‘I came here because it happened to my home city and it happened in the name of my religion.

“‘I came to show solidarity and to show it’s not in my name.’

“Imam Arif was breaking fast and finishing his evening prayer as part of Ramadan when he heard the news of the attack.

“‘Ramadan is a time when you should be worshiping and serving humanity more than ever and these people perpetrated such a crime.

“‘My hope is that everybody is united and show the individuals who want to divide us they won’t be successful.’…”
(Cherry Wilson, BBC News (June 4, 2017))

“…Speaking in Downing Street after a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee, the prime minister said the country ‘cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are’….

“…Mrs May said the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy would be reviewed, as she promised to step up efforts to combat Islamist ideology and work with other countries to prevent the internet being a ‘safe space’ for terrorists.

“She said there was ‘too much tolerance of extremism in our country’ and while it would involve ‘some difficult and embarrassing conversations’, that must change….”
(BBC News (June 4, 2017))

“I am appalled and angered by the terrorist attacks at London Bridge and Borough Market, in my home city. These acts of violence were truly shocking and I condemn them in the strongest terms.

“Muslims everywhere are outraged and disgusted at these cowards who once again have destroyed the lives of our fellow Britons. That this should happen in this month of Ramadan, when many Muslims were praying and fasting only goes to show that these people respect neither life nor faith.

“My prayers are with the victims and all those affected. I commend the work of our emergency services working hard to keep us safe and cope with the ensuing carnage.”
(Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain; via Twitter (June 4, 2017))

Not Missing The ‘Good Old Days’

I figure that folks who support the Ku Klux Klan believe they are defending their country and their faith against people like me.2 But I’m quite sure that many American Protestants do not support the KKK.

I certainly do not fear that an Anglo-American will put a burning cross in my front yard.

Most, I think, are much too reasonable; and no more likely to smite the unrighteous than I am. I’ll grant that living in a predominantly-Catholic town encourages my confidence.

Besides, I spent much of my life as an American Protestant: and never torched a cross.

My experience strongly suggests that many if not most of us/them are not white supremacists with latent pyromaniac and homicidal tendencies.

Excerpt from Mamma's Girls, Chick Publications, ©2012 by Jack T. Chick LLC; used w/o permission.Some, however, particularly where I grew up, expressed great concern about the “Whore of Babylon.”

That’s “queen of whores” for at least one outfit these days, but the idea’s pretty much the same.

I’ve since learned that I grew up in an area with more than the usual old-fashioned American antipathy for Catholicism and the Catholic Church.

That, and incidents like Fr. Coyle’s murder, make me glad that the ‘good old days’ aren’t coming back.

James Coyle was a triple threat to ‘American values,’ by some standards. He was Irish, Catholic, and a priest.

That’s not, entirely, what got him killed.

On August 11, 1921, he had performed a marriage ceremony for a young couple in Alabama. The newlyweds were the daughter of a Southern Methodist Episcopal minister and a Puerto Rican. A few hours later, the minister killed Fr. Coyle.

The father’s actions were justified, by some standards. His daughter had recently become a Catholic, and then married a Puerto Rican. He was charged with murder, anyway: but acquitted, after the jury heard details of the incident.

Time brings change, and sometimes change is good.

On February 22, 2012, less than a century after Fr. Coyle’s death, a North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church bishop headed a reconciliation and forgiveness service at Highlands United Methodist Church in Birmingham.

As I keep saying, I see reasons for hope: and I do not miss the ‘good old days.’ At all.

I’m also dubious when folks apparently want protection against Muslims for the same reasons given for defending America against Catholics.

Assumptions and the Psycho Santa Catholic Connection

This is the third high-profile terrorism incident in the UK since March 22, 2017.1

The folks responsible for all three apparently had religious motives. That doesn’t, I think, show that Islam leads to mass murder.

I certainly won’t make an incendiary claim like that. Something we don’t need today is another angry voice online.

My reticence is no great virtue. I remember how unimpressed I was with warnings and innuendo about folks with the ‘wrong’ beliefs. Not favorably impressed, to be more accurate. I see no point in reinforcing the belief that religious folks aren’t reasonable.

I also remember when “former altar boy” was as common in crime news as “Vietnam veteran” had been a decade or so earlier.

About those newspaper catch phrases: it’s true that some vets committed crimes. So did some former altar boys.

There were precious few American men in a particular age bracket who weren’t Vietnam veterans. The “altar boy” connection may have fizzled when a journalist noticed that it would be hard to throw a rock in some neighborhoods and not hit a “former altar boy.”

Many news outlets, including BBC News and Al Jazeera,3 didn’t draw attention to what I called the Psycho Santa Catholic connection. Others put it in their lead paragraphs:

Man dressed as Santa kills nine at Christmas Eve party
Toby Harnden, The Telegraph (December 26, 2008)

“Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, 45, a devoted Roman Catholic and aerospace industry worker who may have recently lost his job, shot himself in the head hours after the meticulously planned carnage in Covina, California, 22 miles east of Los Angeles.

“His murderous rampage began late on Christmas Eve when an eight year-old girl opened the two-storey house’s front door in the quiet cul-de-sac to find Pardo, dressed as Father Christmas and carrying a large present….”

Parts of the blogosphere lit up with the usual outrage over those nasty Catholics.

I didn’t join in, partly because I’d become a Catholic by then. I doubt that I’d ever have spat venom quite so enthusiastically. That sort of behavior had started me on the path toward conversion, and that’s yet another topic.

About Mr. Prado, I’m sorry that he’s dead; and that he killed his family.

Valuing Human Life: All Human Life

(From HGiovanni Sagristani, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(“Diners threw chairs and bottles at the attacker”
(BBC News))

About that: I think killing innocent people, or myself, is a bad idea.

That’s because I see human life as sacred: all human life. Suicide is a really bad idea, since my life — and everyone else’s — is a gift from God. I have no authority to end my own life. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 22582317)

I don’t always feel like life is worth living, but am glad that I developed a habit of ignoring suicidal impulses. And that’s yet again another topic. (October 14, 2016)

Because I value human life, I am very unhappy at the loss of life near London Bridge. That includes the attackers.

Given the circumstances, however, I think British police acted reasonably. If they had not, the attackers would almost certainly had killed more innocent folks; and most likely would have ended up dead anyway.

Their suicide vests were fake — that’s a new wrinkle. But they were badly outnumbered.

At least some of their would-be victims defended themselves with improvised weapons. Faced with attackers who might be expected to explode, I doubt that folks would be particularly restrained in their efforts to remain alive. A ballistic bar stool can be lethal.

Valuing human life would require me to avoid killing another person, even if I am attacked. I could, however, protect myself: even if an unintended result of my action resulted in my attacker’s death.

The same principle applies to those responsible for protecting others. (Catechism, 23072317)

Love and Working for Future Generations

In one sense, my hope comes from my trust in our Lord’s promises. (Catechism, 18171821)

I’m also sure that Johnny Cash was right: being so heavenly minded that I’m no earthly good doesn’t make sense.

Neither does saying that I have one set of beliefs, and acting as if I have another.

That gets me to what our Lord said when asked “…which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:36)

“He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
“This is the greatest and the first commandment.
“The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
“The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.'”
(Matthew 22:3740)

That, plus the principle of reciprocity we call the golden rule, is easy to remember: and often very difficult to do. (June 4, 2017)

But, difficult or not, I should love God, love my neighbors, see everyone as my neighbor, and treat others as I’d like to be treated. (Matthew 5:4344, 7:12, 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31 10:2527, 2937; Catechism, 1789)

All that talk about love should apply, no matter how I’m feeling. There’s nothing basically wrong with emotions. They’re part of being human. But I’m expected to think. (Catechism, 1730, 17651770, 1730, 1778, 1804, 2339)

That, and not being directly involved in UK or American politics, is why I’m not clamoring for tougher knife control laws or calling for a complete ban on vans. Or staunchly defending the right to drive vans and supporting knife deregulation.

Maybe I shouldn’t joke. At least one of those might be an issue.4

Instead, I’ll repeat what I’ve said before; and almost certainly will again. (April 30, 2017; February 5, 2017)

Part of our job is working with people of good will: all people of good will. By keeping what is good and just in our cultures, changing what is not, I think we can build a better world for future generations. (Catechism, 1917, 19281942, 1825, 1996, 2415; “Laudato si’;” “Gaudium et spes“)

It will be a long, hard, process. I do not expect to see much progress in my life. That’s okay. We’re in this for the long haul, and I think we can do better.

I am sure that we must try.

What I think about:

1 Recent UK terrorism, background and news:

2 Attitudes, mostly American, background:

3 Psycho Santa, 2008:

4 Occasional-reasonable rules:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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3 Responses to London: Death, Hope, and Love

  1. Pingback: London: Death, Hope, and Love ~ Catholic Canada

  2. irishbrigid says:

    Extra comma: “48, were taken to hospitals”

    The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

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