Thursday, 11 April 2013

Raising the dead for that funeral

It seemed odd to hear the BBC announce that, among the 2000 people invited to attend the Thatcher funeral next week, were all surviving British Prime Ministers and US Presidents.

It was the word ‘surviving’ that puzzled me. Had there perhaps been debate, in the circles that decide this sort of thing, about inviting some of the dead ones too?

‘We really ought to get Stan Baldwin to pop along, you know, and what’s his name, the other chap, blotted his copybook over Suez?’

‘Eden? Oh I’m not sure he’d be appropriate. Bit of a loser. No Falklands spirit there.’

And the discussion would continue till someone pointed out the obvious problem. 

‘Hang on, chaps, hang on: how many people can St Paul’s hold? If we have all the dead fellows along, where will we put the living?’

Still, it would have been an amusing idea, wouldn’t it? To invite some of the dead?

Especially if they’d turned up. What a show that would have been if we’d had, say, Benjamin Disraeli and Harry Truman along to say farewell to Thatcher (or do I mean welcome?)

Now that would have made for a truly unique ceremony.

Meanwhile, the antis are getting their retaliation in early. In particular, in Britain there’s a movement under way to get people to buy ‘Ding dong, the witch is dead’ from The Wizard of Oz. So many have downloaded the song that it may jump straight to number 4 or 5 in the charts this weekend.

Legitimate opposition but terrible taste
In turn, that raises a problem for the BBC: normally, they’d certainly play a new entry that came straight in so high up the charts. So that presents a bit of a conundrum: do they stick to normal policy and risk the ire of the Thatcher eulogists by playing the song, or do they risk the charge of censorship by not playing it? Poor old Beeb. Between a rock and a hard place, which is where the venerable institution seems to spend most of its time these days.

My advice? The pro-Thatcher bunch are the majority of the country, and they run the government too; the rest of us are a minority and we all love the BBC so nothing’s going to stop us listening. Just offend us and keep the song off the air. We’ll forgive you soon enough and at least you won’t get your knuckles rapped again.

As for the song, I have no intention of downloading it. I feel just as repelled by the old girl as I ever did, when she was wrecking communities, encouraging greed and giving free rein to her bigotry, but I deeply dislike people who take pleasure in death. 

However, that's anybody’s death.

So when I hear Tories telling us, in sententious and self-righteous tones, how demeaning it is to exult in another human being’s death, I wonder how they reacted to news of the death of Osama bin Laden? Muammar Gaddafi? Slobodan Milošević?

They’ll say, of course, that Thatcher wasn’t a terrorist or leader of a dictatorial state (no, don’t voice that thought: she really wasn’t). To which I’d reply: that’s not the point. If it’s wrong to celebrate a death, then it’s wrong to celebrate any death. 

So no downloaded songs for me. Dignified silence only, if without grief. And certainly no hours glued to the TV coverage of the gun carriage rolling slowly up the Strand to the sound of muffled drums.


Faith A. Colburn, Author said...

All of the above. Some of the unmourned deaths you mentioned were at the hands of our leadership and they were not EXTRAlegal. They were ILLegal. Words matter.

David Beeson said...

Well said, Faith. Even I can accept that there are times when we have to take a decision to kill in order to protect innocent lives, but it should be reluctantly, as a last resort and without joy.

And illegal acts of war make things worse, not better.