There is a feeling that we are not quite ourselves at the moment, truth be told. The culmination of that dissonance is the slaying of Jo Cox MP – although the motive is more likely to be some kind of derangement beyond the reach of normal civic discourse.
However, the values for which she stood and which she displayed – compassion, tenderness, openness – and the brutal way in which her work was ended touches an exposed nerve. For we all recognise the folly of these febrile times and how profligate we have been with our baser emotions.
We have watched with a mix of bemusement and horror as hate has dominated the conversation in America, finding its ultimate and ugliest manifestation in Orlando.
In this, as in many things, we Brits occasionally believe we are above such brutishness. We set ourselves to a higher standard. And when rancour and division and ugliness become the common currency of our political life, then the delusion is exposed.
We are, of course, no different from anyone else in our failings and flaws. Check a troll’s Twitter timeline if you are in doubt. But somehow we manage to create a civic life, and a civil life, that aspires to talk to the better angels of our nature.
The EU referendum has this existential element – brought horribly to the fore by Ukip’s “Breaking Point” poster – but that has been quietened by a sense of national shock following the death of Jo Cox. It is ghastly that it requires the unity of grief, and the instant compassion for children we do not know, to return us to ourselves. And, perhaps then, only temporarily.
It is likely the dastardly work of one man, alone and in isolation, yet we recognise the dank soil in which these seeds have grown. Jo’s words – “that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us” – ring in our ears like a schoolteacher’s scolding.
Tolerance, stability, respect for difference, politeness – inside the EU or outside, that is who we are, or aspire to be. We are not equipped for the heady antics of the hate-mongers. We do not wear it well and it does not suit us.
We are the morning after, not the night before.
We should get back to getting on – with each other, and with this life.