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The Beautifully Lived Life of Jo Cox


The Beautifully Lived Life of Jo Cox

Martin Kirk

What use are words penned in moments of shocked grief? What insight can be found here that eludes us at other times? What useful honesty can I access when both my head and my heart are struggling to connect my friend, Jo Cox, with the story of this young mother and MP who has been brutally and violently murdered, and finding the two utterly incompatible?


Please hold your craven, judgemental scorn for another day.


I'm concerned that Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Gifford was shot too. Is there something about wingnuts such that they like to assassinate moderate women who hold a bit of power, as opposed to assassinating men?


You know that old saying, we judge ourselves by our intentions and everyone else by their actions? That's the grace we offer ourselves, and deny not only our opponents but very often our friends too. I made the point in this tribute that something that characterised Jo was that she instinctively met people as human beings first, and only then engaged on issues. That gave her the space to be able to distinguish intent from actions, and find and give love to whatever common ground was available upon which to make progress. I would encourage readers of these comments to see the type of reaction we're seeing from TheFireNextTime and Drew as an example of the instincts that can lead our politics to get stranded in self-defeating and reductive polemics. I may or may not have agreed with every position Jo took, but I proudly attest to the clear goodness of her intent. If we don't have the capacity or grace to recognise good intent in others, and instead reflexively define everyone by what we disagree with them on ("just know her for what she really is"), what foundations are we building our politics on? I imagine TFNT feels in a foxhole right now. His/her instincts primed for battle, which is why they come out spitting and fighting thus. God knows there's plenty of reason for fear. But I don't believe any good comes from this sort of confusion between a person's political positions and their basic character. Their actions and their intent. Once we learn the habit of seeing people who disagree with us as bad people, or actively work to erase their basic humanity with chilling statements like the one above, we are echoing the misdeeds and patterns of those who have dehumanised anyone, ever, for whatever political goal. And that, my friends, is the first step on the road to the politics of hate. It's a toxic instinct that self-evidently infects the progressive movement just as it does others. My view, and what I've been reflecting on as a lesson from this unspeakable tragedy, is that we will all be better off if we can tame these instincts, unlearn these lessons, and relearn the art and wisdom of compassion. It may be hard, and give you less of the immediate "I'm so smart, look how I can criticise" thrill, but I'll defer to James Baldwin (someone TFNT clearly respects - The Fire Next Time being one of his novels) to give words to why it matters: "Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up."


Thank you, Martin, for your kind words about Jo Cox.

I had the pleasure of working with Jo from afar as part of an international coalition lobbying global leaders to expand global health and social and economic justice to those who have none or not enough of these things. Oh, there were some in our group who were obnoxious, given to talking to hear the sound of their voice or enamoured by their brilliance no one else could see; but not Jo, she just got things done.

The world has plenty of loudmouths, purists, and those who'd insist on pressing for the impossible when settling for a less might mean saving more mothers and children from certain death or feeding more of the starving. Any number of times our coalition was presented with the classic choice of whether to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Jo wasn't confused by false choices and as a consequence, many people's lives the world over are better off because of her efforts.

Two experts in political rhetoric Professors Martin and Salinas, have penned an interesting article [http://bit.ly/1UGtlJ2] in the wake of the Orlando tragedy. Theirs is a serious work well worth the read, but to illustrate the point that words have consequences they quote the warning of the “Star Wars” character Yoda, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” We can stop this cycle anytime we really want to.

I very much share your hopes that “her death [will] trigger a surge of support for the politics of empathy, compassion, and understanding.

There is actually a chance that Jo’s death could spur an international response—at least in North America and Europe—to consign campaigns fuelled by fear and hatred to the rubbish bin. At least in these regions, and hopefully others, this is what we in the U.S. have come to call a “teachable moment.”

Making something of this teachable moment depends on whether we brush aside the distractions that the churls and the naysayers have to offer. We can change things if we really want to.