Observing

OK. I have a lot to do today, but I felt that I had to take a quick break and get some thoughts down on paper pixel. And that only because maybe I feel that I should say something today and I do need to clear my mind a little.

Social media are a horrible place to be today. Some might argue the same of any day, but I’d say especially today – and any day when something momentous has occurred.

Today, for me – despite my not being a Monarchist – it does feel like the rug has been pulled a bit. Something big has shifted. A disturbance in the Force, if you will.

When I think back and look through the major historic events that have occurred during my lifetime, the Queen dying would obviously be one of them that’s right up there. Others? 9/11, the Berlin Wall coming down, the Space Shuttle disaster, Chernobyl, the Falklands War (those last two weren’t really “single moment” things, although the sinking of HMS Sheffield was).

What I’m saying is that considering my lifespan, there are relatively few “big things”, and what happened yesterday was certainly one of them. Arguably the biggest, since I’ve obviously never known any other monarch in the UK, and while everything in the world constantly and necessarily changes, the Queen was always someone – something – that was remarkably constant.

That’s not to say that she didn’t change with the times as well, indeed, I think that was one of her most impressive feats: often she was even ahead of the curve. Her Christmas speech in 1952 – remembering that she was just 24 years old, now the head of the Anglican church, and female in an (even more) male-dominated society included this line:

…but I want to ask you all, whatever your religion may be, to pray for me on that day – to pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.

Which I feel showed amazing foresight, acceptance and openness towards other faiths. Setting a good example from her first moments as monarch.
And something many people could still do a lot better at now, 70 years later.

Later in life, we saw another side of her. Her sense of humour, her incredible work ethic and her vulnerability. The annus horibilis speech in 1992 given that she has given 70 Christmas speeches, the fact that that one remains strongest in the memory is most likely because we saw her human side publicly, maybe for the first time.

The world has lost a wonderful, quiet, perceptive leader.

And, as I said when Prince Philip died last year:

You can learn a lot about people by watching their public reactions to this sort of news.

I recognise that not everyone likes a royal family, and I recognise that Prince Philip may sometimes have been a divisive figure, but some of the comments on social media – particularly those making it all about the individual posting – are both appalling and superb.

As far as I am concerned, you can say what you want. They’re just words. Sometimes pleasant, sometimes humorous, sometimes distasteful, sometimes downright vile. And as I noted above, you don’t have to share my views on the Queen or anything else. But one should always bear in mind that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of that speech. Whatever those may entail.

Again:

You can learn a lot about people by watching their public reactions to this sort of news.

It’s worth noting that those downright vile people have always been out there. But sensibly, you probably chose not to associate with them before. Now, their incendiary viewpoints are thrust upon each and every one of us via retweets, “shares” and “likes”, whether we want to hear them (we don’t) or not.

Be the better person. They’re just words. Step back, take a deep breath, quietly observe.

But also: always remember. As you should with the anti-vaxxers and the covid denialists and the rude and the ignorant. Because knowing who or what you’re dealing with will stand you in good stead, should you come to interact with those people in the future.