Let me be clear from the outset – I was never a fan of Mrs Thatcher. Our politics were a long way apart. Whilst I can see that some of what she did in her early years was much needed, there was much that I believe we could have done well without, and much in the manner of the doing which was wrong.
Like many people, I suspect, I am capable of gross hypocrisy at times, but not so gross that I am now going to adopt an attitude of sentimentality or mourning at her passing. Insofar as I feel any emotion at her death, it is a sense of a moment in history, of being present at the time of an era coming to a symbolic closure. Quite apart from anything else, I never knew her, and the real mourning must be left to those who counted her as a friend, a mother, or a grandmother.
So much for what I don’t feel. What I do feel is prompted by something much closer to home. As I passed through Brixton last night, I witnessed a crowd of people apparently celebrating Mrs Thatcher’s death. The slogan “The bitch is dead” was painted in large letters on a sheet fastened to a tree and there appeared to be something of a party atmosphere. I read in the news today that there were a smattering of such events across the country.
To these events, unlike the death itself, I had a clear emotional reaction, and it was one of profound sadness. Do we really live in a world where we feel that it is right to celebrate death in this way? Have we so lost our respect for our common humanity and shared human experience?
I am sure that many opponents of Mrs Thatcher would argue that she herself often showed a lack of compassion for others, and lack of insight into shared humanity. They may well be right. As a gay man who grew up in the shadow of section 28 and struggled to come to terms with my own sexuality in its grip, I might even be entitled to give myself a minor place amongst them.
But that does not give me the right to hate, and it does not make anger the right way forward. If anything, it makes me more determined not to take these routes. If we fill our world with hate, anger and disrespect, then we cannot really be surprised to find ourselves living in a hateful, angry and uncaring world. I don’t think that’s the type of world most of us want to live in.
At some point in time, we have to break that cycle of anger and distrust – and like all “we’s” that really matter, that starts with you and I; and I would respectfully suggest to all parties that a good point in time to start is right now.