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Old 07-13-2005, 10:59 AM   #16
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The Quiet Power of the Stoic
Part of fighting terrorism, the British realize, is refusing to change a way of life

Next month, I'll have spent exactly half my life in Britain and half in America--my first 21 years in Britain and my past 21 Stateside. But last week, I felt strangely as if I have lived in the same country all my life. In peril, the bonds deepen. I haven't forgotten how much I wept when the Queen ordered her guards to play The Star-Spangled Banner after 9/11; and last week, in the wake of London's bombings, New Yorkers were Londoners again. Rudy Giuliani was even on the scene.

But there was a difference between London on 7/7 and New York City on 9/11. The first was sheer scale. Mercifully, the atrocities in London were a fraction of the human cost of 9/11. And the second was related to that but not entirely explained by it. Americans often react to crises with action and emotion. They see a problem and want to fix it. Brits' reflexive instinct at such times is often calm and steady endurance. In London last week, the immediate quiet was perhaps the most striking thing--followed by an insistence on normality. "Work's over, but there's little chance of getting home right now," one Brit e-mailed me. "Most of us are just going to go to the pub until the traffic has died down. It's not callousness or indifference to carry on as normal; it's quiet defiance."

Another e-mailer conveyed the atmosphere: "The pubs are all packed out, people sipping their pints happily. Nice one, al-Qaeda--you profess to be from a teetotal religion, and you've given the pub trade a massive midweek boost." My sister in the London suburbs looked after a boy whose mom was unable to get home from work. Her first instinct? She made him a cup of tea. My father, after I called to check up, wryly described the mass murder as "not nice." One Brit blogger cited another pub scene where in the middle of the day, two young men were sitting beneath a TV screen with images of carnage, quietly reading about the latest soccer scandal in one of the raunchier tabloids. The broadcast of England's cricket match against Australia was uninterrupted (except for a small crawl on the bottom of the TV screen letting people know that London transportation had been paralyzed). Oh, yes. England won the game. By nine wickets.

When Tolkien wrote his Lord of the Rings trilogy, his hobbits were much like English people, and the "Shire" a rough analogy to an England reluctantly roused to fight evil. After one harrowing adventure, two hobbits, Merry and Pippin, found themselves chitchatting as they went along: "They turned and walked side by side slowly along the line of the river. Behind them the light grew in the East. As they walked they compared notes, talking lightly in hobbit-fashion of the things that had happened since their capture. No listener would have guessed from their words that they had suffered cruelly, and been in dire peril ..."

The English, as Orwell once observed, celebrate their freedom in small ways: gardening, sports, pets, pubs, stamps, crossword puzzles. Part of this is now patriotic mythology. But part is also the enculturated national DNA to see these things not as trivial but as integral to the life of a free people. These things didn't stop, even during the Blitz, when thousands lived through night after night with the prospect of being incinerated by bombs from the sky. Part of fighting the war, the Brits realized, was military. But part was also a refusal to change a way of life, however small its detail, however petty its peeves.

Stoicism? Sure. It's a characteristic of an island where weather is a verb, where in a tiny, crowded place, patience is necessary. Americans, used to an entire continent of limitless potential, tend to have less need for stoicism. If they hate where they live, they often move somewhere else. If Brits move more than a few hundred miles, they're in the sea. But it seems to me we need both approaches in a war on terrorism. We need to fight back militarily when appropriate. We need boldness and aggression. But we also need to steel ourselves for casualties, for failures, for mistakes along the way. Victory in this war will be elusive and never complete. As long as some maniac wants to kill himself and others in a subway or supermarket, we will not be able to stop him. And so stoicism matters. Getting on with our lives matters. Spelling bees, college football, celebrity gossip, high school proms: the simple continuance of these things is integral to the meaning of freedom.

Or so the British have long proved. Their small-c conservatism can lead to errors of complacency--like appeasing Hitler in the 1930s. But it is also a deep strength, as self-effacing as it is unmovable. When mass murder comes to America again, and it will, we could do worse than remember their stoicism. And how modestly powerful it is,00.html

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Old 07-13-2005, 11:20 AM   #17
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The bombings were terrible in London but really the undeniable British Spirit is a bit of a myth, but then again I'm Irish so I'll stop before I start.

R.I.P. All those people took from us.

All the people in the world need to put aside our petty differences and stand together against adversary whatever guise it comes in.

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Old 07-13-2005, 06:13 PM   #18
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Irvine511, thank you for your post and thank you all for responding to my question.
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Old 07-13-2005, 07:19 PM   #19
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I think part of the reason for the different reactions would be the difference in sheer scale and spectacle. The bus bombings were horrible, and I'm not trying to be rude, but I think there might have been a bit more panic if it had been 2 defining skyscrapers crashing to the ground with thousands of people inside. I really hope that didn't come off as rude, that's not how I meant it.

The theory that Londoners are more used to it might be partially true, as far as the *number* of incidents in the past 30 years. But then, more civilians were killed in the OKC bombing than in the entire IRA campaign, in London I mean.

I'm not denying that us Americans can be just a little patriotic though. I don't like our President, and a lot of what he's doing, and I absolutely hate how a certain party seems to think they have a monopoly on patriotism (yeah, leaking the identity of a CIA agent is real patriotic). But I still love this place and can get pretty defensive when I feel like people are making generalisations. And I saw a 9/11 memorial video that made me weep, even though I didn't know anyone who died, other than a guy who used to visit w/ my parents when I was younger. He gave me a seashell once, I still hve it.

Anyway, my point is that there was a difference in pure scale (even though all deaths are terrible) and that partly accounts for the different reactions. I think the response of the American public to 9/11 was largely appropriate, even if the media and the politicians just love to take advantage of a tragic situation.
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Old 07-14-2005, 01:52 PM   #20
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LONDON (Reuters) - Office workers streamed on to the streets and traffic ground to a halt as London paused in silent tribute on Thursday, a week to the day since at least 53 people were killed in suicide bomb attacks.

The chimes of Big Ben boomed at midday across the city to mark the start of a two-minute silence that was observed across the country and elsewhere in Europe.

Black cabs and double-decker buses pulled over as an eerie silence descended on the capital.

In Paris, President Jacques Chirac's annual Bastille day television address was put back to mark the moment. In Madrid government officials stopped work, Berlin's buses, trams and underground trains halted and in Italy, television stations cut into normal broadcasting.

At the four sites where suspected Islamic militants struck underground trains and a bus, Londoners bowed their heads in grief on a swelteringly hot day. Some wiped away tears.

"I just lost one of my best mates -- but two minutes ain't going to bring him back," said Declan O'Hora, 22, contemplating the death of his childhood friend Ciaran Cassidy at King's Cross station.

Michael Harvey, a 20-year-old New Zealander who survived the bus blast, nursed a broken arm in a plaster cast and said: "I came just to show support and pay tribute to people who lost their lives. It's good that everyone came together."

Landings and take-offs were briefly suspended at Heathrow airport and financial markets paused to remember the dead.

Queen Elizabeth stood in silence at Buckingham Palace, while Prime Minister Tony Blair observed the tribute at his Downing Street residence.

In Trafalgar Square, a giant banner declared "One City, One World." The sombre scene was in sharp contrast to last week's celebrations of London being picked to host the 2012 Olympics.

During the silence, all that could be heard was the sound of running water in the fountains. When it finished, everyone applauded.

Play was halted in the opening round of the British Open at St Andrews in Scotland as a klaxon sounded across the course. Tiger Woods stood with head bowed. The flag over the clubhouse was lowered to half-mast.

Dr Amjad Ali, standing outside the Regent's Park Mosque in London, said the bombings were a tragedy.

But he added: "How many minutes of silence would you have to observe if we had a minute's silence for people who died in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir and Palestine?"

In Baghdad, Iraqi policemen huddled in a choking sandstorm at a checkpoint, bemused by the commemoration.

"Fifty innocent people died in London; it was a terrorist act of the kind we here know all too well," said 25-year-old policeman Ali Qasim as he trained his rifle over a concrete block, ready for any suicide car bomber to loom out of the murk.

"But one thing makes me wonder -- 50 people died in London and the world is astonished! What about us? Only yesterday 25 children were killed in Iraq by a suicide bomber. Are Iraqis worth less than other human beings?"

In Spain, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who came to power in an election three days after the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people, joined the two minutes of silence during a visit to Valencia.

On Indonesia's tourist island of Bali, about 150 people placed candles at the monument marking the site of the October 2002 nightclub blasts that killed 202 people. Australian and British tourists wept openly.

In Italy, government offices, railway stations and airports paused. Pope Benedict prayed for an end to terrorism during his holiday in the Italian Alps.

Berlin's transport authority ordered buses, trams and underground trains to halt for two minutes. In Paris, Chirac stood silent on the steps of the Elysee Palace.

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