By
Mike Smith
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20 June, 2016
The murder in broad daylight of the 41-year-old British Labour MP Jo Cox has had the same psychological affect on us British as the mass shooting of 49 people in Orlando has had on the American people. Both have galvanized us in grief. Both have left us in tears. And angry that such atrocities can happen. 
 
Mike Smith
How do we respond? How do we reflect adequately on such terrible tragedies? Jo Cox, a recently elected MP, a wife and mother of two young children, was probably a more high profile figure than most, if not all, of those who lost their lives in the Orlando gay bar. We—at least we British—know far more about her than those killed in Orlando. And, ironically, we have come to know her, and all that she stood for, far better in death than we ever did while she was alive. She has become an even greater, and greatly loved, public figure. 
 
This is so often the case with those who die. (I write as a freelance obituary writer for British national newspapers.) We get to know more about them after their demise than we ever did while they were still alive. Unexpected facets of their lives astonish us and we regret that we didn't know more, find out more, about them while they were still with us. (I have just been to the funeral of an elderly friend who died aged 99; I had no idea that she has been a fearless ambulance driver for the Red Cross during World War II.) 
 
Jo Cox was a vigorous campaigner, in and out of parliament, for greater humanitarian relief for the victims of the Syrian war. In her previous career as an Oxfam campaign manager she had been to some of the world's dangerous trouble-spots, from Srebrenica to Dafur and Afghanistan. As an MP, she challenged xenophobic attitudes and gained respect from members of all parties across the House. 
 
Her influence lives on. It is ironic that she is probably now even more influential in death than she was in life. Her death has united MPs across the political divide and helped the electorate to reflect on the selfless and tireless commitment of politicians in serving their constituents, so different from the cynical notion that they are all self-serving, only in parliament for power. Her death also suspended, if not put to an end, the aggressive and abusive campaigning in the referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union. It is as if she has shamed us into better behaviour and into being better human beings. She herself was a strongly pro-Remain campaigner. 
 
Her moving and powerful maiden speech to the House of Commons, in which she spoke about her West Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen, has reverberated on social media around the world. In it she talks about the multi-ethic, multi-religious community she represented. She has this telling comment: 'We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.' And that, in a Twitter world of soundbites, is probably how she will be most fondly remembered. It is also more true for the human condition, and the nations of the European Union, than we possibly imagine. What unites us is greater than what divides us. Which makes the murdering, politically motivated loners, and the murderous atrocities of Daesh and the Taliban, driven by hate, so out of sync with humanity, with Jo Cox's humanity.
 
There will be further debate about how to protect the safety of Members of Parliament going about their constituency duties, just as, for the American people, there is ongoing debate about gun control. This should be a priority for the next US President, despite the pernicious stance of the National Rifle Association. 
 
Jo Cox loved meeting people. She simply loved everyone she met. It was in her heart and nature to do so. She was greatly loved in return. Paying tribute to her, her sister, Kim Leadbeater, said: 'We were brought up to see the positive in everything and everyone and have endeavoured to do so throughout our lives. Our parents instilled in us a real glass-half-full mentality.... She only saw the good.'
 
May we all do the same.

Mike Smith is Head of Business Programmes for Initiatives of Change in the UK and one the coordinating team of the annual conferences on Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy in Caux, Switzerland. He is the author of 'Great Company: trust, integrity and leadership in the global economy', published by Initiatives of Change UK, 2015 and IofC, India, 2016.

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.

 

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