Over the weekend, protesters across London who had defaced a war memorial were widely (and predictably) condemned as moronic and evil by social media users and the newspaper press. They had written ‘Fuck Tory scum’, in a furious crimson scrawl, across The Monument to the Women of World War II, on Whitehall in London. Never mind that the paint could soon be washed off, this was an act so morally reprehensible as to command big screaming headlines in almost all of the national newspapers.
‘It doesn’t matter how angry you are’, said one widely quoted tweet, ‘graffiti on a war memorial is inexcusable and damn right rude.’
‘There is no excuse for violence and vandalism’, wrote another online commenter (ironically oblivious to that fact that memorials to WW2, on the whole, exist for the very purpose of justifying violence and vandalism, on a global scale).
Meanwhile, on my social media networks, a story from July 2014 was doing the rounds. Last summer, Michael Gove – our newly appointed Minister for Justice – had insisted, in an interview on the Andrew Marr show, that a public inquiry into the endemic sexual and physical abuse of children by members of parliament was unnecessary. Although he agreed that there had very likely been a wide-scale cover-up of child sex abuse, Gove didn’t like to apportion too much blame. “It was almost unconscious,” he said about the politicians who turned a blind eye when they knew that their colleagues were raping small children. “It was the thing that people did at that time.”
I don’t know about you, but reading those words makes me angry enough to want to deface a public monument. I’d merrily fling red paint over every war memorial from Ypres to Washington if it meant that the people we have elected into government might finally and properly acknowledge the horrific violence that was committed upon the most vulnerable children in our society, and mete out justice.
Of course, this weekend’s protests weren’t about child abuse per se. It’s an issue that seems to have been lost in a sea of other issues that might rightly be categorized under the heading ‘Tory Scum’ (see: bedroom tax, child poverty, disability benefit sanctions, tuition fees, trident, increasing the public debt despite austerity measures etc.).
I’m baying for violence and vandalism. Not because not because I don’t believe in the democratic process by which the Tories have been elected, not because I don’t respect the men and women who died during warfare – but because, according to allegations widely accepted by those in power to be true, some of the people we elected into government over a period of decades kidnapped, raped, assaulted and murdered children – or facilitated the cover-up of those who had. And our Minister for Justice thinks this is just a “thing that people did at that time.” I.e. in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, when I was a child, with big blue eyes and Findus Crispy Pancake dinners and an obsessive relationship with my Care Bear collection. Gove is suggesting that within living memory it was common practice to turn a blind eye if you knew children were being raped.
How can this possibly be an acceptable position for someone in government to hold? How can a man who has expressed this view be allowed to oversee the justice system in our country?
The public response to allegations of endemic child abuse has so far has been massively underwhelming. We are participating in a colossal under-reaction. Bubbles of outrage appear to have been burst by the launch of complicated, halting public and criminal inquiries that will take years to reach any satisfying climax. The complex nature of investigating historic sex abuse cases will ensure that almost all of the people who committed these terrible crimes will be dead before their victims see justice – if they aren’t dead already.
It was one terrible thing that decrepit, egoist television personalities were allowed to escape justice for decades. It is quite another thing when the very people we have entrusted to speak on our behalf are allowed to rape tiny children in plain sight and get away with it.
We should all be angry. We should all be taking to the streets, chucking washable paint over public memorials. Whatever side of the political divide we fall on we cannot let the endemic abuse of children go without a proper public outcry. There must be speedy justice and reform. We cannot allow this issue to fade away to nothing. We must show the people in power that we will not let their violence against our fellow citizens be forgotten. We must show the people in power that we will not stand for this happening ever again.
This blog was first published at Huffington Post UK.