Ex-President George W Bush expressed it best eight days ago, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Recalling the patriotism that united Americans after the Twin Towers attacks, he said, “Those days seem distant from our own.”
Now, he lamented, “a malign force seems at work in our common life that turns every disagreement into an argument, and every argument into a clash of cultures. So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment.”
No better example of his words was an incident on that same day at a memorial ceremony in Washington DC. As President Biden’s car drove slowly through the hushed crowds, a woman screamed at him, “Joe Biden, murderer!”
This, alas, was just one example of the nastiness, sometimes violence that seems to have entered public life, reflecting a political dysfunction pre-eminent in the United States, but detectable here in Britain, too.
In Tennessee, a student told a roomful of mums and dads that his grandmother had died from Covid and he urged them to ensure their children, his classmates, wore masks. They shouted him down.
A Polish footballer was accused of racially abusing a black English player, resulting in a torrent of online hatred addressed not to him, but to his wife.
In London, Covid sceptics put up posters saying Masks Don’t Work. Embedded in the back of the posters was a razor blade to cut anyone taking the posters down.
Locals in an English south coast seaport shouted abuse at terrified refugees who had just been rescued from storms in the sea, and Home Secretary Priti Patel began investigating ways to force migrant boats back to France.
Around the world in 2020, a record number of people fighting to save forests, water resources and other aspects of the environment were murdered. The total of 227 was the highest number recorded for the second straight year.
There seems little doubt that in America, President Trump became a seriously divisive factor in the national psyche, while Britain’s decision to leave the European Union provoked an unprecedented level of antagonism, pro and con.
The legacy of race, jobs changing or disappearing under automation and the wrongful use of social media are critical problems. Sadly, neither country seems to have the leadership capable of addressing them.
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The Northeast of England is not where you might expect Kenyans to make a big impact, but that is where the world’s biggest half-marathon is held and we know who is good at marathons, don’t we? Kenyans, right!
Last weekend, Helen Obiri won the 13-mile women’s race through Newcastle upon Tyne, the eighth Kenyan to do so in eight years.
‘Obiri Continues Kenya Tradition’ declared the local paper over a photograph of the smiling Obiri. The previous seven winners were Mary Keitany (three times), Vivian Cheruiyot (twice), Priscah Jeptoo and Brigid Kosgei.
A highly decorated athlete, with Olympic and World Championship medals already won, Obiri seems very likely to maintain Kenya women’s iron grip on this event.
A total of 57,000 runners took part in the event, raising millions for charity.
PS: Can’t ignore the men entirely. Kenya’s Ed Cheserek came second in their race.
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Remember Paul Taylor, the guy who planned to make a charity trip on his moped by visiting places with rude names?
It’s good to report that Paul completed his odyssey, visiting Booze, Twatt, Brawl, Cockpole Green, Titty Ho, Shitterton, Butthole Lane and numerous other embarrassing places over 12 days.
He raised more than £20,000 for the Institute of Cancer Research in memory of a friend who died of cancer, aged 55.
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I confess I was outraged when I saw a photograph of a rhinoceros hanging upside down by its legs, thereby winning a spoof Nobel prize, named Ig Nobel.
But then I read on: This was a serious experiment to assess the effects of moving rhinos between areas of fragmented habitat by hanging them from helicopters. No-one had ever checked how the heart and lung functions of the tranquillised animals coped with the practice.
Accordingly, in Namibia, 12 black rhinos were suspended from a crane and their physical responses measured. The results showed the animals coped better in that unusual position than lying chest down or on their side.
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John Travolta tested negative for coronavirus last night. Turns out it was just Saturday night fever.
What word becomes shorter when you add two letters to it? Short.
Relationships are a lot like algebra. Have you ever looked at your X and wondered Y?
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The restaurant waitress serving an elderly couple noticed that the gentleman always referred to his wife in loving terms, “Honey”, “Darling”, “Love”, “Sweetheart” and so on. How nice, she thought, married all these years and still so much in love.
As they left, she whispered these thoughts to the old man, who looked rather embarrassed. “Not really,” he said, “I actually forgot her name 10 years ago.”