Today is the anniversary of the London bombings, the 7/7 bombs that killed 56, including four scumbags who detonated their backpacks aboard three tube trains and a bus.
At the time I, along with the rest of the world, was impressed by the British reaction. "What a stiff upper lip these Brits have," we all exclaimed, resorting to the comfort of a cliché. It felt refreshing to me, having experienced the endless handwringing over 9/11, to find that by early afternoon already Radio 4 had returned to normal programming.
For me, the lasting vision of the day occurred while I was stuck in traffic on the M25, trying to reach my husband who'd been stranded in Surrey. I looked up to see a flock of sheep scurrying over an overpass, followed by a dog and his shepherd. Everyone was leaving London, even the sheep.
But the stiff upper lip soon started trembling. Oh, the queen and most of her subjects still went on as if "the incident" was just that—a minor blot on an otherwise annus not-so-horribilis. But the government, taking a lesson from its allies across the pond, decided to seize the opportunity. Those pesky civil liberties they'd never really liked anyway were ripe for the plucking, and pluck they did. It helped their case when, weeks later, copycat would-be bombers tried to re-enact 7/7. The next day trigger happy police shot and killed an innocent man.
There have since been countless memorials for the victims, but no official inquiry. Numerous raids have been conducted, sometimes on innocent people, on the flimsiest of evidence. Free speech has been strictly curtailed: Don't try protesting within sight of Parliament Building; you'll be arrested. Have a mind to read the names of war dead at the Cenotaph? Forget it. Likewise, heckling at party conferences, especially by seditious octogenarians, might be a violation of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.
They'll even arrest you for walking in the wrong place: walking on a bike path with a view of the harbor may be an act of terrorism, in Blair's
Brave Quivering New World.
Somewhere, in a very large pot, a frog is boiling away, observed by a ubiquitous camera. Unlike the sheep, who had the sense to flee London when the city was under attack, the frog hasn't yet figured out its days are numbered (with "9/11" and "7/7" being the current favorites).
Today there will be a moment of silence for the victims of 7/7, whose deaths have been used to justify the death of freedom. Wreaths will be laid, prayers will be said, and warnings will of course be issued.
Just don't ask for whom the bell tolls.