Although Thomas Mair, a clearly disturbed member of a far right organization in the U.K. is the person who brutally murdered Labor M.O. Jo Cox on the streets of Birstall last Thursday, the real culprits are the politicians who have cast the referendum on Britain’s remaining or leaving the UK in apoplectic terms.
The leaders of the two major political parties in the U.K., David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn, made a special trip to the village in Yorkshire, just south of Leeds, where she was killed. Missing from the scene were Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson who have painted next Thursday’s referendum in the starkest terms and blamed immigrants for all of England’s problems.
Just a slugfest
There are a number of rational arguments for both the Remain and Leave campaigns but, as pointed out by Brian Leggett in a prescient post last week, the country’s politicians have allowed the discussion to degenerate into a slugfest. To be fair, both Farage and Johnson immediately condemned Mrs. Cox’s murder but there is a straight line between their rhetoric and the crazy act of one of their supporters.
It seems that Mair killed Cox because of her outspoken support for immigration and conviction that Britain’s multicultural reality is a strength rather than a weakness and a problem. When brought to court yesterday, Mr. Mair said his name was “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”. Although it has not been substantiated, some witnesses said they heard Mr. Mair shout “Britain first!” as he murdered Mrs. Cox and whatever he said, it appears that this heinous crime is clearly the result of a twisted interpretation of the Brexit campaign.
In his remarks in Birstall, David Cameron urged his countrymen to “stand back and think about some of the things that are so important in our country”. Campaigning on either side of the vote has been suspended and the mutual misinformation and personal attacks have been stopped.
Other places, same issue
As I have written in a number of posts since starting this blog in October 2013, politicians have a responsibility to civil society to keep things on the right side of civility and to avoid stirring up hatred and violence .
In classic style, Republican Donald Trump took advantage of the horrific murder of 49 people at a night club in Orlando Florida to keep on about his crazy idea to ban all muslim immigrants and was deliberately misleading about the nationality of the murderer Omar Mateen. Trump said Mr. Mateen was “born an Afghan” when in fact the man was born in New York to Afghan immigrants.
The world in 2016 is a complex place and there are many people who have trouble adapting to this complexity. In this group there are also people whose lives are not what they had hoped for or one reason or other and are deeply unhappy, fearful, or just plain angry.
By offering ridiculously simple explanations for the complexity we face and blaming a specific ethnic group or political situation for all of our problems, these reckless politicians encourage acts of violence such as that killed Mrs. Cox.
They should be deeply ashamed of themselves and re-think their approach.