War is sh!t, violence is abhorrent and fighting is horrible, I think we can all agree on that. Like any wife and mother, I was gripped by an icy fear at the barbaric murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. My thoughts are still with his family and those that loved him. It is a cruel irony that he survived a tour in Afghanistan and died on the streets of London. As an army wife, I think of Lee's death in the way that I think of all 444 service personnel that have died on operations in Afghanistan, with a heavy heart and a nagging thought that it was a tragic waste of a young and promising life.
I, like many, have huge respect and support for all service personnel doing a very difficult job in a harsh environment, but do not remotely understand the campaign in which they are involved. I have read widely around the topic and spoken to many soldiers of all ranks and regiments and am still left with a gut wrenching feeling that the military action in Afghanistan is akin to digging a hole in the sand and hoping that it will still be there after the tide has come in and gone out.
Most soldiers in this conflict are killed in IED explosions; this is a violent death, no more or less so than Drummer Rigby's. The difference is that the horror and detail, is not usually played out in the full glare of social media, captured in its entirety and immediately released. I understand that this is the technological age we live in and very hard to moderate. BUT, this should not be carte blanche for newspapers to cover their front pages with blood soaked meat cleavers or to report with stomach churning, salacious detail the exact nature of Lee's injuries. The public were rightly outraged and distressed, but to add fuel to the fire is not the way forward.
I feel that we are now at a crossroads, where the kindling has been laid and we have a choice, do we fan the flames of hatred and mistrust or do we quell them with a blanket of positivity and determination?
The community spirit shown by many in Woolwich on that fateful day, the courage demonstrated by those that offered comfort when it was needed the most, was truly awe inspiring. The flowers, messages and outpouring of love from one human to another, visible at the gates of the Woolwich barracks, war memorials and other military units around the world, is the true message from this tragedy.
Can we now harness this positive energy? Can we continue to offer our neighbours the hand of friendship regardless of colour, creed, sexual orientation, race or religion? Can we reach out to the lonely, the alienated and the scared? What better legacy for Lee Rigby and all those who die fighting for our freedoms, that we demonstrate tolerance and love.
To steal from Gandhi, 'You must be the change you wish to see in the world'
This starts with small acts of kindness that are infectious, a smile, a gesture. I believe human beings have the capacity to achieve great things. It is easy to think of 'the general public' as a remote body, but that phrase means us, me and you. It is our job to start this. So, let's start now, do it today, let's see what we can achieve. The alternative will be an escalation of tit-for-tat violence and simmering hatred for generations to come, the thought of which, I find unbearable.