The Financial Times says ‘at least nine,’ the Guardian goes with a definitive ’12 killed.’ A truck ploughed into a Christmas market in Berlin and people are dead. Paris, then Nice, and now Berlin. The German interior minister says, ‘We don’t yet have anything conclusive regarding the circumstances and the course of events…’ and yet Donald Trump has already responded, placing the responsibility firmly on the shoulders of ‘Islamic terrorists’ and commenting that ‘Isis and other Islamic terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad.’
The victims are not even cold and their horrific deaths are being appropriated by a determination to create an enemy. Trump and his ilk need us to hate. They can’t wait for evidence, for discussion, for analysis. They need a simple answer, quick. There can be no nuance, no complexity. Continually slaughter? That’s what abbatoirs do to turkeys at Christmas. It’s what Hitler did in the death camps. By reducing humanity to polarized positions, Trump creates a simple solution. ‘These terrorists and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the Earth, a mission we will carry out with all freedom-loving partners.’ Hate creates energy – but the energy it creates is mindless, unreasoning and disengaged from consequence. Hate does not listen. When I argue with my homophobic vicar, I’m told I need to read my Bible. When I try to discuss Brexit with an ardent Brexiteer, I’m branded unpatriotic. When I argue with Trumpeters, I am branded a woolly liberal. I have no defence against that charge; I only hope that we can find our way before they come for me.
Twelve people are dead. Twelve people who were born into the human race and lived as part of it for their brutally curtailed lives. I do not know their names or anything about them. But this morning I hold them in my heart and pray that we might honour our shared humanity in a moment of concentrated calm, and that we wait for information before we plunge headlong into a festival of hatred and a feeding frenzy of blame.