A very British response to atrocious acts of terror
Attacks on Manchester and London have failed to break the Brits, who have responded with humour, stoic defiance and public events that warm the heart
Not since Live Aid has there been a more poignant pop concert than One Love Manchester on British soil. Coming as it did just one day after another horrific terrorist attack in the heart of London, the charity concert headlined by Ariana Grande, the youthful pop star who survived a suicide bombing at her own show barely two weeks earlier, was as much a joyful event as it was a tribute to the victims of the Manchester bombing.
Live Aid in 1985 was an expression of universal sympathy for African victims of hunger and famine. Sunday’s gathering of 50,000 music fans was a very British collective defiance in the face of terror. National character can easily be debased into caricature. But it has been a very British response that encourages everyone “to keep calm and carry on”.
When The New York Times inadvertently ran an offending headline, “The London attacks hit a nation still reeling from the shock of the bombing in Manchester”, it was mercilessly mocked with tweets and memes. The Brits do not see themselves as reeling from anything. They are children of the survivors of the Blitz.
One photo that went viral during the mayhem was of a man who evacuated with his pint of beer without spilling a drop – the British spirit of calm, good cheer, and refusal to be cowed. Or quite simply, the guy had paid too much to part with his pint even in the face of death and terror.
If there is a people who have the experience, history and fortitude to deal with a prolonged campaign of terror, who can devise proportionate and appropriate responses and not to react irrationally and destructively for themselves and others, it’s the Brits.
While her president has commented on the attacks without grace and cheaply exploited them for his own racist political agenda, Grande, the elfin 23-year-old American singer, did her country proud by reaffirming unity with the young people of a close ally under siege.
There was a particularly moving moment when Coldplay and Grande performed a wonderful cover of an all-time classic by Manchester’s greatest band, Oasis.
So I’ll start a revolution from my bed
’Cause you said the brains I had went to my head.
Step outside, summertime’s in bloom …
Don’t look back in anger, I heard you say.