It's a pretty clear message that I have, and in writing it I'm certain that the people who most need to read it, absorb it, and act on it will not be doing so:
Be excellent to each other.
Five words that encapsulate the central core doctrine of what I stand for, what I try to do when I am in a position of responsibility for educating young people, what I try to embody (without always being successful). It's at the core of Christianity, properly conceived, and whilst I don't pretend to understand the religions in anything like the same depth, it's a teaching that sits at the centre of Islam and Judaism as well. Here's the thing that seems to get missed, though. God might well have His chosen people, and if He does, good for them. But from what I understand of God (or Yahweh, or Allah), being one of the chosen people doesn't come with a right to blow up all the others who don't belong. I can't help but feel that some of the people who have lost their lives to conflict in the Israel will stand before God, see Him shaking His head at the needless loss of life, and weep at the senselessness of the fighting. And that's regardless of which side they were on, and that's regardless of whether they were combatants or innocent bystanders.
Part of the problem is the very real pressure to pick a side, and to have a justification for it. That has been intensified by the looming presence of social media in people's experience, where nuanced argument is conspicuous by its absence, and by the mob mentality of people in general but in particular on such platforms. I am no historian of the Middle East, but I can say with confidence that the answer to the conflict there will not be found by looking back and figuring out who really ought to be there. I can further say that conflict - whether political or military - does not seem to have much of a positive history when it comes to sorting out social, economic and moral problems. So the route to peace won't come from victory, but from the recognition that what real victory is - grandstanding aside - is an answer in which people co-exist without the need to re-contest the outcome at any opportunity.
The same goes for Northern Ireland, Brexit, whatever. As a kid, I remember being asked the question about holiday destinations - where would I like to go and where would I not like to go? And my response to the latter (I have no memory of my response to the former) was to say that I would not like to be on holiday in Northern Ireland, because people there seem to shoot each other quite frequently. The people of Northern Ireland, the UK, Ireland, the USA - whoever has a stake and whoever has any power - bear a responsibility, and that is to get right first an attitude to the conflict that is one of improvement and peace, not victory in some cause. That justice for terrible actions past might not act in its familiar way is a worthwhile price to be paid for preventing terrible actions not yet done.
And when it comes to this country and its future? I suppose my sensibility is clear enough, and my voting preferences would be so to those who had a sense of who I am. The very nature of political parties seems to be that none quite embodies my view on how the country should be run. Indeed, the desire for power in and of itself should be a fair warning. My hope is that the era of everyone being able to publicly express an opinion drives a move towards something like a coalition of government in people's interest and with their blessing. But it seems that people's attachment to their opinions is too big a barrier. And their attachment to power, in some cases.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought