The Sunday Magazine

Parents of Manchester children unite in grief with Muslim parents - Michael's essay

Terrorists no longer just kill adults. Here's an excerpt: "Now, the children are "soft targets". I can't think of a more accurate or appropriate term."
Saffie Rose Roussos, one of the victims of the attack at Manchester Arena. She was 8 years old. (Associated Press)

We grownups have been killing each in many different ways through several millennia over issues great and small and we will probably continue in that endeavour. But in this century, the targeting has shifted. Now we kill the young.

The children in their dying used to be called collateral damage, a cold, mechanical term which could apply to a highway traffic accident. There is nothing collateral about these deaths. They are meant to happen.

Now children are soft targets. I can't think of a more accurate and appropriate term.
Liam Curry and Chloe Rutherford's families described the teenaged couple as "perfect in every way for each other and were meant to be." Chloe, 17 and Liam,19, died in the terror attack on Manchester Arena. (Twitter)

The murder venues in Manchester and in Paris, are places when the young gather to be with friends, to be free for a few hours. Places of noise and crowds and young laughter. Target-rich environments.

The vocabulary of terror, the words -- senseless, cowardly, vicious, appalling, sickening --- are all horrifically descriptive in an almost scripted way. The words and the language of grief are disturbingly familiar; our thoughts and prayers…..

And so on.

In the theatre of terror following an attack, the players hit their marks and say their lines. The police authorities describe the murder hunt for possible accomplices. Civic leaders stand at candlelight vigils and proclaim the resilience of their city or town and its people.
A growing bank of flowers at St Ann's Square in central Manchester on Friday, May 26 2017. (Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press)
They will not be defeated or intimidated. They will come through this nightmare stronger than ever. Clergy of all faiths call on God to bless the survivors and take the dead unto Himself.

It is devastating beyond imagining to lose a child to accident or disease. But to have a child murdered, targeted specifically by a terrorist, must derange a parent in a particularly cruel way.

In the children of Manchester, we recognize our own children. But we don't often think about the thousands of Muslim children who have been ground up in the terror mills. Last year in Afghanistan, 923 children were killed, a 25 per cent increase over 2015. Whether the adults killing them are Boko Haram, or Al Qaeda, or Taliban or Western coalition forces, the Muslim children continue to die.

They step on land mines while playing, they are caught in a cross fire, shot down at checkpoints, run over by military convoys.

The parents of the Manchester children are now united in a real way in grief with Muslim parents across the world.
Renee Rachel Black, right, is comforted by Sadiq Patel n Manchester, England on May 24 2017. (Rui Vieira/Associated Press)
"Death unites as well as separates", said Balzac. "It silences all paltry feelings."

The young who survived the Manchester bombing will be scarred for life. Guardian columnist Louise Nevin was 10 in 1976, when a bomb planted by the provisional IRA exploded at an exhibition she and her mother were attending in London. No one was killed, but 84 people were injured, many seriously. For years after the bombing, she had to cancel any trips to London because of violent fits of nausea and vomiting. Her school chum, Tanya, was subjected to panic attacks. She became obsessed with unattended packages. To this day, she will sit only in an aisle seat in a theatre.

We like to think that we can protect our children and for most of their young lives, we do. But we want to block their ears and cover their eyes when the horror strikes. But we can't.

In 1889, W.B. Yeats wrote a poem called "The Stolen Child". Each stanza ends with:

"Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping, than you can understand."