Coronavirus could threaten us all. A friend arrived back from China on Tuesday. We spent time together on Friday, joked about face masks, but really - I mean really, it is not a joke and it could have an even more drastic effect on the world than the flu epidemic of 1919. The virus could already be in my house. My daughter works at a University that has a large number of Chinese students, some from the worst hit provinces. The virus could already be in her house too.
I won't bang on about the climate crisis because there has been so much about it in the media this month that there's a risk of us developing 'news fatigue' but when I read that David Attenborough is coming to the Midlands to talk at a major citizens' assembly I did a double take, muttered an expletive or two, and declared to myself that it is time I did more to help the world than merely reusing shopping bags.
Tomorrow is Holocaust Memorial Day, 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, since the world was stunned by unbelievably horrific images in the news. Those events have formed an uncomfortable backdrop to my entire life. Had the Holocaust never happened the community in which I grew up, and am still a part of, would have been very different. I have lived surrounded by immigrants and refugees. The German refugees, those who came on the kindertransport, lost everything. They rarely talked about it but the pain was always there, like a cloud choking their aura. I remember one of Mum's friends who fell silent whenever Mum mentioned her cousins. I remember my Sunday School teacher with his number tattooed on his arm. He never stoped talking about it. I must have been about seven and would come home on Sundays with an ache in my heart.
In spite of the above, I am having to include antisemitism as one of this week's disturbing news items. There is no denying that it is still with us. What is wrong with human beings? Why are we hardwired to hate? The issues of antisemitism in the Labour Party are yet again in the news as the Party campaigns for a new leader and in today's paper there's a plea from World Jewish Congress leaders to halt antisemitism. I keep asking myself what Mum would think about all this, even though I know the answer. She would be shocked and horrified, and so am I.
Which brings me to the final news item, Brexit. This time next week we will no longer be part of the EU. The papers have published photographs of a commemorative 50p coin that will be issued on Friday, but can we abide by the motto engraved on it:
Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations (inspired by Jefferson's first inaugural address).I only hope that this hand of friendship is extended to immigrants and refugees living within our borders, and to all descendants of immigrants and refugees, because I certainly fall into that category and I rather suspect that, if we delve back far enough, so do we all.
|Chancellor Sajid Javid with the commemorative 5p coin|