Everyday People

 

As I hurtle unstoppably towards middle age, I find that certain things are changing. For some unknown reason, my body has decided it is time for hair to grow out from the top of my ears. I can’t bend down anymore without making an odd, involuntary noise. And I am becoming increasingly grumpy and intolerant. Not with one particular thing, just anything and everything in general.

 

“Bah! This music is rubbish!”

 

“Aaargh! Drive faster, you clown!”

 

“Gah! This wine has gone up in price, AGAIN!”

 

I’m becoming increasingly annoyed with stupidity. Now, before you shout at me to get off my high horse, it is usually my own. But there are certain times where I see something, or hear somebody talking, or read an opinion that brings out the Victor Meldrew in me. 

 

Yesterday, I had such an incident. 

 

I had a spare five minutes, so I checked out my Facebook timeline.  And there it was, right in front of me. It shone out of my phone like a beacon on a dark night. 

 

“BAN THE BURKA IN BRITAIN” 

 

It was accompanied by a woman wearing a burka who had a photo-shopped red “X” crudely drawn across her image. Sigh. I made the mistake of scrolling through the comments. Rage. The hellish, blatantly racist comments angered me enough to add my own, counteracting the sentiment that the majority had. When I saw the replies, I wished I hadn’t bothered. I threw the phone down and continued on with my day.

 

Later, I went back onto Facebook, only to find someone else had shared the picture. Full on fury now. My first thought was to delete them from my friends list but I’m waiting, in the hope that they read this first, then I can do it.

 

I suppose these latest glut of attacks on other people’s business stem from the escape of Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed from a mosque dressed in a burka. 

 

“See! It’s a security risk. That’s why it should be banned!” is the outcry. But that shouldn’t be the outcry. Is it not the case that we be more concerned that our top counter-terrorism cops were given the slip by a man dressed as a woman?

 

And if we’re going to ban the burka because it was used by a baddie to escape, shall we then ban all costumes and forms of disguise? An amnesty perhaps, for the false glasses, nose and moustache combo? I can see them all now, proudly displayed on a table by the police, all lined up in a row like some macabre Grouch Marx convention. What about dustbins? I’ve seen countless baddies sneak up on the goodie simply by placing the bin on his head and running in short bursts until he reaches his prey. He usually bashes into a tree or two but that’s beside the point.

 

Also, on first thought, superheroes would be rubbish. But if you really think about it, imagine just how many lives will be saved because they don’t have to find the time to get changed in a phone box. 

 

WHOOSH! 

 

“Here I am to save the day! Yes, I’m dressed in a, erm, pair of trackies and a hoody. I was at the gym, ok??” However, their names would be poorer. There’s no need for the sexy secret identities, so it would be plain old Derek-Man or The Incredible Irene or Super-Brian. 

 

The recurring theme throughout the hideous thread of comments I scrolled through was that those who wear the burka should “go home” as if Islam was one big country in the Middle East. I wonder how many people out there think this to be true? It seems that more and more people are becoming less and less tolerant of immigration and those who choose to live here. Britain is for British people, they say. Well, without immigration, I wouldn’t be here. We traced my ancestors back to 1838 when the McIntyres hit these shores from Ireland for the first time. I’m pretty sure old Bernard McIntyre was a scoundrel and fleeing some kind of gambling debt. My wife’s story is even more complicated. Her Grandfather was born to Polish parents in Germany whilst travelling to France. Jan Wojciechowski was his name. To fit in when he first moved to Scotland, he changed it to Winters to avoid confusion. 

 

So, using the logic of buffoons, my wife and I should “go home”. I’m off to the Emerald Isle but we’re a bit confused as to where Karen should go. And what about the kids? Do we get one each? Share them?

 

I’m also told that Britain is a Christian country and that Muslims should respect that, Well, as far as I can see, they do. And for those that keep shouting about this, some questions. When was the last time you saw the inside of a church, my friend? What’s your favourite passage from the Bible? For all the banging on about Islam being an evil religion, Christianity suffers from terrible problems itself. How can suicide be a sin? The person was ill. How can a woman who has an abortion because she was raped be a sinner? Hey, gay people! How does it feel to be persecuted because of who you are? And how can any religion be taken seriously if it does not see a woman as an equal to a man? Get your own house in order before you criticise anyone else. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 3-5. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

 

The absurdity of the argument doesn’t end there. They say that people who come to our shores should respect our traditional British values. But nobody can ever tell me what they are. Is it queuing? Sheepishly  continuing to eat a meal without complaining even though there’s something really wrong with it? Is it fish and chips? Fighting at the football? Complaining about the weather? Or is it being completely intolerant of other people’s cultures?

 

It’s a sure-fire bet that the same people complaining about Johnny Foreigner not adapting to the British way are guilty of the same thing themselves. They’re the first ones to load their suitcase full of Brooke Bond D and Hall’s sausages before flying to Benidorm because “it ain’t the same out there”. They’ll tell you how they can’t get a decent cuppa and that the milk tastes funny. They spend the entire two weeks in an “English” pub that sells bacon and beans and a good pint of Carling. None of that foreign muck for them. Every single local will be called “Pedro” and when they walk into a shop they’ll bellow “DO YOU SPEAKA DA ENGLISHESE?” and complain how backwards this place is because a Spaniard only speaks Spanish.  They’ll come home and tell you they had a great time but “there’s no place like home”.

 

Indeed there is not. But it isn’t just white people called Ian and Sandra who call Britain home. We are fast becoming an extremely ethnically diverse nation, home to many different types of people with many different ways and means of living. Instead of banning people’s cultures and forcing them into a “British” mould, perhaps we should take the time to ask, study or learn the ways of those who are different to ourselves. Maybe then, we can all learn a little bit about each other that’ll go a long way to helping us live alongside one another. And when that happens, hopefully it’ll give me one less thing to complain about.

 

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