Beth, I think that you’re right about the Beating of the Unjustly Accused. Oddly enough I thought it a fascinating response from Dave at the time he initially posted it on Via Negativa, but it assumed eerie prescience last week during the furore caused by the decision to invite the ‘Leader’ of the British National Party… I simply cannot bring myself to put his name here… to appear on the BBC’s current affairs programme Question Time. I don’t know how much you know about the rise of the BNP in the UK, and of their repellent stance over issues of race and immigration. This man has been spouting nonsense for years. (In addition to his racial prejudices he’s denied the Holocaust and declared homosexual men to be ‘creepy’. You get the picture.) However I wasn’t reassured when the Question Time audience, seething with hostility toward him, quickly exposed the depths of his ignorance, because candidly the electorate for whom he has most appeal are probably not politically savvy regular Question Time viewers. In fact the tried and true Question Time format of members of the audience asking questions answered in turn by each guest on the panel, was completely abandoned. I think that had he been required to contribute to the programme in the regular way, his complete unsuitability for public office would have been swiftly made apparent. Instead the programme degenerated into the unedifying spectacle of an audience united against despicable yet fairly inarticulate man whose response was to ‘smirk’ when asked why he denied the Holocaust! (I kid you not. He SMIRKED! That’s about his level.)
Of course there will always be those who’ll side with the underdog in such circumstances, quite simply because it isn’t pleasant… and indeed doesn’t seem at all ‘fair play’… to witness one man cowering before a vociferously hostile crowd. We should be better than that, even when faced with the leader of the BNP.
But to get back to poetry here. Dave, your poem captures something that’s been haunting me all week. The BNP is brazen in its hatred of ‘other’, whether that be defined by colour, language, sexual orientation, faith or even just opinion. I wasn’t thinking of the BNP when I painted The Beating of the Unjustly Accused. I was expressing something hateful that all too frequently has found a voice, call it whatever ‘ism’ you will. Fascism. Nazism. Racism. Nationalism! Thank you my friend for making us think, and doing so with insight and eloquence. Confronted by the baying hatred of the BNP, I turn to find beauty, wisdom, courage and inspiration in your magnificent poem.