“We have far more in common than which divides us.” ~ Jo Cox

Jo Cox P5

Brendan Cox tells one of many memorial events that killing of his wife

was ‘designed to advance hatred’ but inspired love

It should have been Jo Cox’s 42nd birthday. She would have spent it, her husband Brendan said, “dashing around the streets of her home town” campaigning to remain in the EU, just as she had spent the day before she died on an inflatable boat on the Thames with her two young children, in defiance of Nigel Farage’s pro-Brexit flotilla, flying a banner that read a determined “In”.

Jo Cox P6

Instead, six days after the (UK) Labour MP was killed outside a constituency surgery, her family, friends and many more who had never known her came together in events across Britain and the world to celebrate her life, and to insist that her legacy be one of love, tolerance and unity.

Thousands gathered in Trafalgar Square, central London, on Wednesday to hear the MP’s widower describe his wife as a “ball of energy” who had “come to symbolise something much bigger in our country and our world that is under threat” through her commitment to tolerance and uncompromising stance against extremism.

Fighting back tears, Brendan Cox told the crowd that his wife’s killing had been political. “It was an act of terror designed to advance hatred towards others. What a beautiful irony it is that an act designed to advance hatred has in fact instead generated such an outpouring of love.”

Jo Cox P2

The event also included tributes from the U2 singer Bono, actors Bill Nighy and Gillian Anderson and the humanitarian Malala Yousafzai, who said: “Jo’s life is proof that a message of peace is more powerful than any weapon of war. Once again the extremists have failed.”

In the market square in Batley, West Yorkshire – the MP’s hometown – about 2,000 people heard her sister, Kim Leadbeater, express her family’s gratitude for the “outpouring of comfort and support” that has followed the killing. While some, she said, would focus on continuing the “big picture” of Cox’s work, she urged others to integrate “tolerance, peace and understanding” in their everyday lives.

Watched by her parents, Gordon and Jean, Leabeater said: “From Batley to Burma and the Spen Valley to Syria, Jo’s life was centred around helping people and standing up for the causes she felt so passionately about.

“My sister would want her murder to mobilise people, to get on with things, to try to make a positive difference in whatever way we can, to come together and unite against hate and division and to fight instead for inclusion, love and unity. In Jo’s honour, and on behalf of her grieving family, I urge you to please do so.”

Many of those present, including the handful of police, wore white roses – the symbol of Yorkshire – and brought flowers to contribute to the large pile outside the town hall.

Jo Cox P1

Other commemorations were held in Dublin, Nairobi, Sydney, Brussels, and in New York, where several hundred people who had gathered near the UN heard Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, read a statement from Barack Obama.

“We must never doubt how much things can change,” the US president said. “Jo knew that our politics at its best still works. If we recognise our humanity in each other we can advance social justice, human dignity and the peace that we seek in the world.”

The former Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, urged people on Twitter to “keep [the MP’s] legacy alive”, posting a link to a fundraising page that has raised more than £1.3m for causes Cox supported.

Other tributes included a video recorded by the band Portishead, which included a quote from Cox’s maiden speech to parliament that said: “We have far more in common than which divides us.”

In Edinburgh, about 100 people gathered on Portobello beach, with candles spelling out the phrase “more in common” pressed into the sand.

They heard her friend, Oxfam colleague and former bandmate Kim Wallace describe her as “fearless”. She said: “Jo was killed by hatred and if that happened to anyone else, Jo would not have been silent. She would’ve called it for what it was. I encourage you all to love the world like Jo did.”

Brendan Cox said he had wanted the couple’s two young children, Cuillin and Lejla, who were present at the Trafalgar Square event, “to see what their mum meant to all of you”. Their day had begun at the family’s home on a barge on the Thames, where neighbours had carpeted one community dinghy named Yorkshire Rose with 1,000 roses. Brendan Cox and his children travelled up the river to Westminster, where the dinghy will be tethered for a week.

He described his wife as “the best mum that any child could wish for. And wish we do, to have her back in our lives.” He said he and the children had spoken every day since her death about “the things we will miss, the memories we will cherish. We try to remember not how cruelly she was taken from us, but how unbelieveably lucky we were to have her in our lives for so long.”

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Below are extracts from “The Economist” :

Star turn

Jo Cox, the first British MP to be murdered since 1990, died on June 16th, aged 41

OUT-OF-TOUCH and self-centred at best; deceitful and crooked at worst: Britons have developed smoulderingly low opinions of their rulers. Jo Cox—idealistic, diligent, likeable and rooted in her Yorkshire constituency—was a living rebuttal of that cynicism.

Britain’s political class is easily caricatured as an inbred elite. But she was the first member of her family to go to university. True, she found Cambridge daunting: it mattered so much how you talked and whom you knew. Other undergraduates had posh professional parents and had taken sunny gap years. Her only foreign travel had been package holidays in Spain, with summers spent packing toothpaste in the factory where her father worked; indeed she had assumed, until school pointed its head girl farther afield, that she would spend her life working there.

For all her brains and charm, Cambridge jolted her confidence—setting her back five years, she said. But when in 2015 she reached the House of Commons, mastering the ways of that self-satisfied, mysterious and privileged institution was easy.

Also unlike a stereotypical politician, she had a real life. She had been an aid worker for ten years. She had met rape victims in Darfur in Sudan, and talked to child soldiers about how they had been forced to kill their family members. She commuted to the House of Commons by bicycle, from the houseboat she shared with her husband and two young children, its view of Tower Bridge the only luxury she allowed herself to enjoy. (She wasn’t a TV star and wouldn’t dress like one, she firmly told a constituent who wondered if she might like to vary her trademark, unfussy blue blazers and red dresses.)

Principles mattered; tribalism did not. She was Labour “to the core”, but one of the most moving of many tributes after her murder was by Andrew Mitchell, her Conservative co-chair of the all-party Friends of Syria group. He called her a “five-foot bundle of Yorkshire grit”, and recalled her ferocious scolding of the Russian ambassador for his country’s role in Syria’s civil war. She and her Tory counterpart would text each other across the floor of the House of Commons, oblivious to the baying partisanship that raged about them. Other such friendships abounded.

Fired up

She bemoaned British foreign policy’s missing moral compass. Whereas many Labourites droned or ranted at the prime minister’s weekly question-and-answer session, she asked him, calmly and devastatingly, whether he had “led public opinion on the refugee crisis or followed it”. That unsettled Mr Cameron, and (aides now say) helped change British policy. Her plainly spoken ambition to be foreign secretary one day looked more than plausible.

Helping her constituents was her most rewarding job, yet also prompted the tragic circumstances of her death. Though Westminster and Whitehall are tightly guarded, British politicians have scant protection when they venture outside. Only a handful of senior ministers have police bodyguards. Constituents wanting to meet their representatives simply make appointments for their regular surgeries (advice sessions)—or, as in the case of Mrs Cox’s assailant, wait outside in the street.

Trust and openness come at a cost. A recent survey showed four out of five MPs saying that they had experienced intrusive or aggressive behaviour. Mrs Cox herself had complained to the police about abuse—although not involving the 52-year-old gardener with, seemingly, far-right views and psychiatric problems who is now charged with her shooting and stabbing.The toxic echo-chamber of social media, plus untreated mental illness, help turn stalkers and oddballs into murderous maniacs.

 

Sources: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jun/22/jo-cox-murder-inspired-more-love-than-hatred-says-husband-brendan;

http://www.economist.com/news/obituary/21700740-force-life-amid-britains-political-malaise-she-died-after-attack-her-constituency

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