Last month across the UK, we remembered Jo Cox. Jo was a Labour MP for Batley and Spen until 2016. Jo was a mother to two young children who are now 7 and 8. Jo was a friend, a colleague, a wife and an inspiration to many.
Before entering the world of Politics, Jo worked at Oxfam International where her job took her to some of the most dangerous parts of the world; from Afghanistan to Sudan. She worked with women who had been repeatedly raped and child soldiers who had been weaponised and ordered to kill members of their own family. Nothing was off-limits to Jo, she was courageous and determined to radically change the world for the better.
She grew up in Batley, the same place where she was born, she would later lose her life in the most tragic of circumstances. Jo was just 41 when she arrived at her advice surgery on the morning of 16th June 2016, she was carrying out her duties as an MP, committed to the people of Batley and Spen. Thomas Mair, a right-wing terrorist, also turned up at her surgery armed with a handgun and murdered Jo in broad daylight.
Jo’s legacy still lives on today, her kind, gentle, open nature is remembered across the country with ‘Great Get Together’ events happening each year on the weekend of Jo’s birthday. The motto of these events comes from Jo’s famous speech where she said, “we have more in common than that which divides us”. The events are held across the country to help unite communities and remember our commonalities. But, Jo had another (less-publicised) motto, speaking in an interview about her experiences working for Oxfam International, she said: ‘if you ignore a problem, it gets worse’.
So, let’s be courageous and talk about the problems of today, let’s not ignore them. One of the problems is the provocative language being used in our politics today- by Politicians, by the media and many others. They’re normalising the use of words such a ‘traitor’ or ‘betrayal’. It’s like we’ve forgotten where this kind of rhetoric leads to- Thomas Mair, Jo’s killer, was asked for his name by the judge when he was on trial for Jo’s murder, he responded by saying ‘death to traitors, freedom for Britain’. It is irresponsible and dangerous for Politicians, media outlets and anyone else to poise Parliament against the people in this way by using language of treachery and betrayal.
Another problem we’re faced with today is the lack of tolerance that some people have for those who are different to them. We only have to look at the events of the last few months, where we saw two young women from the LGBT community attacked on a bus in London. This is the shocking realisation of how intolerant some people have become. Jo’s values were those of love, unity and understanding. Her compassion was non-conditional- in Jo’s heart you deserved compassion and love regardless of your race, gender, sexual orientation or the colour of your passport.
So, those are the problems of today, and as Jo said, we mustn’t ignore them. But instead, we must look to the future and hope that wherever we are- in work, in politics, and especially around those who are different to us- that we remember that we have more in common than that which divides us.