I have absolutely zero interest in football, so it was a bit of an odd thing to set out to watch the first half of yesterdays' "friendly" between England and France. I was, I have to admit, curious to see how the media circus would report it, what kind of language would be used, what gestures and symbols might arise.
There are things everyone noticed, and things hardly anyone saw, such as, stitched to the tops of each player, the logo of the UK charity Breast Cancer Care. Long before any of the recent events, this match was due to help raise funds for the chairty, and indeed, did evidently raise tens of thousands of pounds. Unreported, and largely unnoticed. But it made me think.
Cancer is the collective name for a set of vile diseases and conditions that are, perversely, utterly nondsicriminatory. Respecting no social mores, cancer can affect people of any ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, gender, religion, policitcal opinion, age, education, wealth or health. There was something striking, to me anyway, that in the context of a football match that overtly set out to say that "we" will not be defeated by "them", a huge sum of money was raised to support a cause whose "we" will always embrace "them" because it uses a whole different set of definitions.
There is a lot that troubles me about the responses to events in France, and others have written far more eloquently about that than ever I could. So I'm going to end with some words lifted from the Facebook page of Nicholas Adams, a theology/religion professor at the University of Birmingham:
"As the dust begins to settle in Paris, some brief practical reflections coming out of my inter-religious work (some of it in Pakistan and Indonesia).
(1) IS does not aim to make life intolerable for white Europeans. That is not a realistic goal. They aim to make life intolerable for European Muslims, by hardening white European attitudes. That is achievable, and our national presses willingly collude.
(2) Any government that responds by increasing surveillance of the general populace while cutting funds for local community policing is colluding too.
Bombers are people who are told, and believe, 'they hate us'. The single most effective way to reduce hate and the perception of hate is well funded and well trained local community policing. (That, and refusing to buy papers that fuel hate towards Muslims.)"