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Guyon: Manchester Bombing

My cousin in Manchester describes Monday's concert tragedy as “desperately sad.” She lives about six miles from the Manchester Arena, where a homemade bomb, packed with metal nuts and bolts, exploded as thousands of attendees - mostly girls and their parents - were leaving after a well-attended performance by popstar Ariana Grande. Last I’ve heard, 22 people died, including an 8 year old girl, and more than 60 were injured - a dozen of them under 16.

I’m grateful that nobody in my family was hurt but I share the grief of everyone in that community, and the UK overall. Many have added to their Facebook profiles a heart-shaped Union Jack flag with “Manchester” written across it. I added it to mine too.

Nevertheless, these symbols of solidarity are beginning to seem like a Band-Aid to me, as is the heightened security that follows these atrocities. Phrases like “Je suis Charlie” or “I am Manchester”, on the surface, have a very simple meaning, which is that I too, feel the anguish of those in mourning.

Yet if we study the last several years of terrorist acts in various cities - 13 in Western Europe since the 2015 Hebdo assault - there may be a deeper message.

Clearly, the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo was in opposition to the paper having depicted a cartoon of Muhammad on its cover. But it’s less clear why Monday’s assault targeted Grande’s Dangerous Woman Tour - unless it was a misguided attempt to warn girls not to embrace their rightful empowerment.

And while many condemn terrorist acts as purely evil, to me they’re something far more complex - borne of ignorance and cultural disconnection, driven by despair, isolation, disenfranchisement, and utterly unhinged rage.

The manifest depravity that targets children, suggests a depth of dysfunction in the perpetrator that no amount of security will solve. It demands that we, as a species, examine and address the underlying causation, on a human, psychological level.
Whether carried out by a solitary suicidal murderer or a band of extremists, these acts are tacit evidence of grave mental illness.

As voters, we must demand the mobilization and funding of the global mental health community, as emphatically as we insist upon security and police protection.

Before they do harm, we must help these people, who are truly the saddest of souls – or in the words of my cousin - “desperately sad.”