Last night, a group of friends and I were having post-exam drinks in Tang Hall till the early hours of the morning – the manner of which entailed debauchery in the most western sense. You can fill in the details yourself, but by heavens did we deserve to celebrate the end of such a difficult term.
That was when the news of the latest terror attack in London broke. We paused, checking our push notifications from BBC News and muttering to ourselves – the same old reaction to these kinds of tragedies. It’s become ritualistic: the politicians post their reassuring statuses, people from miles around mark themselves safe, and we condemn the ideology that wants to destroy our way of life.
But I’m starting to fear it may all just be semantics. Increasingly, calls to either cancel or postpone the general election are filtering into the mainstream, with a new petition started on change.org to call it off completely. Its description reads that “after a second devastating attack I believe it is time to prioritise the safety of our country and its people”.
What hypocrites would we be to give up what separates us from the terrorists?
Does prioritising our safety really come about through silence? In the wake of the Manchester attack, I found it commendable that Jeremy Corbyn committed to having a clear debate on national security. He gained a lot of criticism for “politicising” the tragedy – and I suspect that many Brits still aren’t won over by his overtures on negotiation and dialogue. However, having the guts to discuss this sensitive issue so openly is a hallmark of the strength of British democracy.
And we mustn’t forget that it’s a cultural advantage. What hypocrites would we be to give up what separates us from the terrorists? ISIS, Al-Qaeda, separatist extremists: all of them are united by an authoritarian, theocratic ideology that holds the West in contempt for its values. They are disgusted by gender equality, disgusted by our openness to the world, and disgusted by liberty. All of these values are strengthened by democracy.
I think my friend, Laura put it best at our house party last night with this simple reminder: “We’re having fun tonight despite everything those terrorists stand for.” She wasn’t wrong. The fact we kept up that party was our own act of resistance, because any other reaction to the news would have been giving them what they want. We carried on, drinking and laughing together – afforded by the privileges of living in the United Kingdom.
So let’s keep carrying on. Don’t let the terrorists win: if you’re registered to vote, go to your nearest polling booth without any reluctance or fear of disapproval. People have died to give us this right: let’s not allow these tragedies to take it away.