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What the blood knows – terrorism and collective memory

June 5, 2017

From a UK perspective, there’s so much about the USA that is strange. But their response to terrorists has to be the strangest. I mean, this weekend wasn’t even their terrorist incident, and so many of them are going a bit funny about it

Maybe it’s because of the blood

In Europe, our ground is soaked in blood. The blood of animals, enemies, sacrifices and ancestors. Our histories are shared through families and communities and lessons, as far as the beginning of the written word. And beyond

The USA has that too, but only for those whose ancestry stretches back over 600 years is it their animals, their ancestors. From a British perspective, that’s a while, but not, in the grand scheme of things, a very long time. For example, the legal system of England and Wales is based on Magna Carta, which was signed in 1215, and has never been suspended, although it has been, bit by bit, repealed and superceded. The Roman baths in Bath, in the southwest of England, are still usable buildings

So for modern America, for its collective child-of-immigrants identity, it’s memories are comparatively short and bloodless. And the blood there is, is either not theirs, it was shed overseas. Their civil war is the only exception. Until 9/11, when the spectre of a shared enemy attacking at home became reality for Americans for the first time. A horror their forbears thought they’d paid to get rid of through storms and disease on the high Atlantic

This youthfulness of collective experience has undeniable upsides. The USA has been the top world economy for a very long time, and despite challenges will stay there a good while yet. The collective energy, positivity, and confidence of America is honestly somewhat baffling at times. But every balance sheet has two sides

On the old continent, we are used to people spilling our blood at home to try and make us think and act differently. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Mostly it makes us stick up two fingers at anyone who thinks they can tell us what to do and call them fucking wankers

This is not our first time in the crosshairs. It will not be the last. Our blood knows it, backwards and forwards. So we bury our dead. We cry tears and defiance. And we get on with our lives, knowing delay is possible, but prevention an illusion

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