Monday, October 11, 2004

Mourning Sickness

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the situtation with Ken Bigley is truly heart-breaking. It really is. I really feel for his family. I really felt for the situation he himself was in. It is totally unimaginable. It's difficult to comprehend the fear that both he and his family have been through in the past few weeks.

The news of both his capture and his death was deeply saddening. After actually seeing their son, father and brother slaughtered at the hands of these maniacs it would have been so easy to come out an hour later on Friday with all guns blazing, speaking with raw emotion and blaming everyone from here to kingdom come for his death. But they didn't. They were all very dignified. They spoke very eloquently and controlled. They are all better people than I am.

But I can't help but think we are going over the top as a nation about shocking events like this. We have done for a few years now, ever since Princess Di died. We can't go around having minutes silences and books of condolence for all the English people who get killed unlawfully abroad as much as they've suffered and as much as some people would like to. What about the young girl who was thrown off a bridge in Australia? The victims of the Austrian coach crashes? There are so many incidents to number.

Rushing around getting myself settled to watch the England - Wales game on Saturday I noticed among the hubbub that the players were taking part in a minutes silence. I stopped to listen, hoping that it wasn't for Ken Bigley. It was. It was a total knee-jerk reaction. I know I should feel fortunate to be alive to witness the game at all but there doesn't seem to be a week going by without a floor of floral tributes, a book of condolence, a minutes silence and black armbands for something. Where does it stop?

We know the first thing about Ken Bigley, but we don't know any more than that. We knew he was married to a Thai girl, was from Liverpool, had a family who cared about him and knew that he worked in Iraq. We don't know the kind of person he was. Take the basics of most of these things and they apply to all of us.

I find it disrespectful to both the soldiers currently in Iraq and the soldiers killed in Iraq that the powers that decide these things would rather have a minutes silence for Ken Bigley than for them, I find it a little strange that the government have spent more public time talking about Ken Bigley and his death than they probably have for all the 60 odd British soldiers killed in Iraq put together. How must their families feel?

Ken Bigley has been afforded the same honour as most true heroes get. Why? Yes, its extremely sad, despicable and sickening what has happened to him, but there needs to be some level-headedness about it. We have to remember that this guy chose to go to Iraq, chose to ignore all the warnings about the safety of foreigners.

He had a choice whereby the citizens of Iraq and the soldiers who guard their precarious freedom do not. Let's not make a saint out of him.