Tuesday, June 20, 2017

More To Come?


Finsbury Park aftermath aerial
London, England
Hello Everyone:

As we were chatting about the tragic Grenfell Tower Fire another terrible event was unfolding in London, England.  On June 18, 2017, a driver plowed a van into a crowd Muslim worshippers leaving the Finsbury Park Mosque, killing an elderly man who suddenly fell ill, and injuring 10 people.  Initial reports quote the driver shouting I want to kill all Muslims.

The latest terrorist attack (yes, that is precisely what it is) could have been far deadlier had the crowd not pinned the attacker down, and an imam from the Muslim Welfare Center, protected him until the police arrived to arrest him.  The attack is another terrible blow to London, a city already facing one of the toughest summers in recent memory.  To make matters worse, temperatures are hovering near 90 degrees and the political order is teetering on the brink.  And the summer has barely begun.

Finsbury Park on a regular day
London, England
Today, Blogger would like to take a look at the turmoil roiling through London.  Our guide once again is Feargus O'Sullivan's CityLab article "London's Summer of Discontent."  London is rapidly becoming the stage for a collision of political instability, man-made catastrophe, and acts of terrorism.  The Grenfell Tower Fire last week, with a death toll reaching 79, so far.  The fire was likely caused by recent applied flammable exterior material.  The devastation left an extremely late wake-up call to the powers-that-be of the dysfunction and neglect of low- to moderate-income Londoners, the very ones that live in the tower, are treated.  One of the bloody awful effects is underground service along the the surface line, running past the burnt out hulk, has partly cancelled out concern for falling debris landing on the tracks.

Finsbury Park Mosque
London, England
This latest act of vehicular terrorism in the north London borough comes hot on the heels of another act of vehicular terrorism that killed eight people at the London Bridge, after ISIS followers drove into a evening crowd before going on a stabbing rampage.  It comes less than a month after 22 people were killed in a bombing at a concert in Manchester.  In all, the Finsbury Park is the fourth terror attack in the United Kingdom in three months.

Feargus O'Sullivan observes, "It's not just these horrors in themselves that are taking a toll.  Keep Calm and Carry On may have become a terrible cliché, but when trouble comes, it's what people do here...But after Grenfell, it's also the failure of the government's response, both national and local, that it making people sick to the stomach."

PM Theresa May and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn listing Finsbury Park

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn recently spent time at the fire scene, speaking with survivors and volunteers.  Prime Minister Theres May made a short visit to the site, speaking with emergency service workers only, avoiding the victims and media, in a futile attempt to avoid being heckled.  The PM's visit also raised questions about her political future, ones that a private meeting with survivors at 10 Downing Street, days later, failed to answer.  "But while the evasion and chaos of her response has seen Grenfell Tower disaster dubbed 'Theresa May's Hurricane Katrina' in its irrevocable damage to her public standing, she isn't the only political figure in the firing line."

Chief of Staff Gavin Barwell
Prime Minister May's chief of staff Gavin Barwell is also under fire for sitting on a report on the tower's fire safety.  The wealthy Conservative-held Kensington and Chelsea Council, where the Grenfell Tower is located, is being raked over the coals for the poisonous mix of incompetence, indifference, and inaction.  Mr. O'Sullivan reports that unbelievably, "Desperately needed offers of help, such as emergency accommodation for victims, were apparently turned down by down a council that has long been the target of of complaints overs its apparent lack of concern for poorer residents."    Emergency housing has been left to loosely organized local volunteer relief efforts.  In the meantime, the agonizingly slow drip of actual confirmed casualties has been considered by many as an effort to muffle public outrage.  This anger came to a head on Friday when locals gathered outside Kensington Town Hall, some actually forced their in, to protest the council's alleged evasions and contempt over Grenfell.

The Queen's Speech to Parliament 2013

 Although London and Manchester have been rocked hard in recent months, the large, dark cloud of crisis and tension has spread across the country.  Mr. O'Sullivan reports, "May's Conservatives unexpectedly failed to gain a majority in the June 8 election, forcing it to seek an electoral partner to prop up a minority government.  It's only choice was Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, a Protestant fundamentalist grouping with a history of paramilitary association and values that are completely out of step with modern Britain..."  This political partnership is so tenuous that PM May has put off Queen's Speech, which traditionally opens a new government and, in an effort to mitigate the risks of a future vote of no-confidence, cancelled next year's speech as well.

   Adding more kindle to the fire is Brexit.  Today is the first day of negotiations for Great Britain's divorce from the European Union.  PM May's government hoped to present itself as a secure and stable force with solid mandate from the British voters.  A year after vote, a strong and stable government with a rock-solid mandate from the British voters is hardly the case.  In fact, the opposite is more accurate.

One of the many things yours truly loves about Britons is their ability to find a silver lining amid the gloom.  Feargus O'Sullivan reports, "Kensington's newly elected MP suggests that the Grenfell Fire is tentatively starting closer relations between the rich and poor of Kensington."  If you go http://www.independent.co.uk, you can watch a short video of an Anglican bishop, an imam, and a rabbi-communities with congregations in Finsbury Park-join together in a show of solidarity.  Something that reminds the world that no matter what happens, no matter how hard the United Kingdom is hit, the people will ultimately get up and work together to cope with the shocks.

One question that comes to Blogger's mind and probably the minds of many Americans, is can a rapid succession of terrorist attacks and a disastrous fire happen in a major American city happen in the near or distant future?  Hard to say.  Americans, like their British cousins, have a wonderful sense of community.  When faced with adversity, we can work together to heal.  However, in this politically high voltage time, it feels like our differences make that that sense community hard to come by.  Even worse, the powers-that-be, enabled by their media outlets like to exploit those differences.  However, yours truly firmly believes that underneath it all we are all Americans, regardless of the circumstance of our birth.

Do you just hate when this happens?
Finally, the British being British, have found a way to laugh in the face of all these blows.  When the New York Times headline blared London was "reeling," it got people laughing in disbelief, "given that actual mood in the city was  a defiant flippancy that Londoners default in a crisis."  It also provoked a hilarious twit storm with hashtag #ThingsThatLeaveBritainReeling.  A lesson for us all.  London is still reeling, everything even humor has its limits.  Is there more in the future?

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