News & Politics

Courage, 'Courage,' and the British Blitz Spirit

By Emma - Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Courage … and “Courage” in England

There was another terror attack in London on Saturday, 3 June 2017. Today it’s almost old news — too many attacks, too often — except for news today of the British police officer who fought back. Yes, you heard that the “unarmed British police” ran away, but at least one didn’t. One British transport policeman, instead of running away, “rode to the sound of the guns,” taking on the terrorists who were armed with butcher knives using only his baton. By doing so, he slowed the terrorists down and undoubtedly saved lives. He was wounded fighting terrorist berserkers armed with knives.

That is courage. I like to think I’d do the same, but who ever knows until they’re faced with the need? What we do know is this British police officer did his duty. The American press had their usual attack of the vapors, saying that Britain was “under siege” and “reeling.” John Oliver responded appropriately:

“Ok, here’s the thing, for the record, in no way is Britain under siege. Upset? Yes. Pissed off? Of you f—ing bet it’s pissed off. But to say ‘it’s under siege,’ and that its people are reeling is to imply that it’s somehow weak enough to be brought to its knees by three monumental a–holes,” Oliver said. “That, as an idea, is insulting.”

That is also courage. As Oliver showed a little later, among the Brits running away from the “monumental arseholes” was one man running away who refused to leave his beer behind.

I have a friend — an American girl, but with two passports and fiercely proud of her British heritage and living in England temporarily — who has been saying for weeks that the terrorists don’t understand what they are messing with, that the British bulldog doesn’t anger easily, but isn’t easy to placate once angry.

The British public — with the exception of a few Labour politicians and some farther-left commentators — seems to be more in that bulldog mood every day.

And that, too, is courage.

Piers Morgan, in an excellent piece (I know, right?) wrote about his grandmother:

My grandmother used to speak of the “Blitz spirit” whenever we spoke about her experiences during World War 2 when she was a young teenage girl.

The official dictionary definition is “stoicism and determination in a difficult or dangerous situation, especially as displayed by a group of people.”

“Blitz spirit” — that’s courage too.

The night after the London Bridge attack, Ariana Grande, along with a bunch of other pop stars, performed in a benefit concert in Manchester, to benefit the victims of the Manchester bombing. In his piece, Morgan called this courage. I don’t really buy that — she was almost certainly in very little danger, and she could be sure that the security posture at the concert would be, well, heightened. That’s not really courage per se. It’s something else.

Ariana is a 23-year-old girl, rich as Croesus, a TV star since she was 14, from a well-off family. She’s said some really dumb things, and she probably has never really had to face the real perils and problems of life. But two weeks after the Manchester bombings, she came back, spent time with the victims and their families, put together a benefit concert, and didn’t let another terror attack put her off.

I suspect Ariana has grown up a lot in the last two weeks.

It’s not uncommon to see rich pop stars act with some generosity toward others. But what Ariana showed is not courage, it’s something else — something that the queen also showed in her own visits with the victims in the hospital. It’s something for which the queen had been trained her entire life. It’s the responsibility of the more privileged to act with both generosity and nobility toward those less privileged. It’s called noblesse oblige, and it’s not what we usually expect from bubblegum pop stars. Sadly.

So, call what the British police officer did courageous. Call the man running with his beer courageous, in his own thoroughly British way. Call the British Blitz spirit courageous. Ariana Grande wasn’t showing courage, but she showed something else, and it’s something admirable in itself.