Yes, look back – and forward – in anger

If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
If you poison us do we not die?

There may be readers who believe I am writing out of turn here, who think I am virtue-signalling from the comfort of my study, cup of Yorkshire tea and slice of ginger cake at my side. I don’t care. I am angry. So, so angry. And so, so sad.

When Downing Street partied as the late Queen sat alone in her mourning, I got angry.
When they cavorted over Tesco’s Finest prosecco and Colin the Caterpillar cake as I bade farewell to my brother-in-law from behind a mask, forbidden from hugging my grieving mother-in-law, I got angry.
I thought I could never again get as angry as that again.
I was wrong.

When Putin took his tanks and his soldiers into Ukraine, claiming to liberate Russian sympathisers, but in reality, to subjugate the rest if Ukraine, I got angry.
I thought I would never again be as angry as I was when we heard the tales of the horrors perpetrated upon the people of Sievierodonetsk, of Bakhmut, of Kherson, of Mariupol, of Zaporizhia by Russian soldiers.
I was wrong.

I thought I couldn’t get any more angry than I was when I read about the trial of Lucy Letby, and indeed, about the many failings of too many maternity units in the past few years.
I was wrong.

I have no words to elucidate just how much anger I have for the perpetrators of the massacre – and worse – of men, women and children in Israel.
To murder people indiscriminately, to torture and kidnap them from a kibbutz, the definition of which is a communal settlement in which all wealth is held in common, profits are reinvested, and all work is considered equal. It don’t come any more peace-loving than that…
To murder, torture and kidnap youngsters who just wanted to go to a music festival in the open air, as so many thousands of British youngsters – my own daughter included – did at the end of August…
I have no words.

Nor are there words for my sorrow at the fate of the people of Gaza, sacrificed by militants from their own ruling party, in the fight against Israel. People who have been living for years effectively in an open-prison, hemmed in by a country they are brought up to see as the enemy, that controls the air, the sea, the land borders, and has the power to turn off the power and the water at will. People who, yes, elected Hamas into government, and have been paying the price ever since.
If you, like me, need a bit more educating on the causes and the background, I can recommend this intro to the Rest is Politics podcast by Rory Stewart, a man for whom I have a lot of time.

The question is being asked in the UK, by some, is why is the news spending so much time on a war that is nothing to do with us? To which the only answer is – quite apart from the fact that there are British citizens involved so, yes, it very much IS something to do with us – that a civilised nation should not stand by and watch atrocities like this happen. Not if it wants to be able to look itself and its citizens in the eye.
But then that begs the question, is a civilised nation one where Jewish schools feel they have to close for the safety of the students, where Jewish students are advised not to wear their unforms for fear of reprisals for Israel’s retaliatory actions in Gaza. Is a civilised nation (the US in this case) one where a six-year-old Muslim boy is knifed to death by his 71-year-old landlord, who is ‘upset at the situation in Israel and Gaza’. Six. Years. Old. Six. Years. Old.

I’ve written far more on this that I thought I would, probably that I ought to have done. But, just like with Ukraine, I can’t go about my day-job and not say something.

So, I’ll leave you with the words of someone who knows what it’s like to live with hatred on both sides of a fence. Who knows EXACTLY what it’s like.


About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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