I should say right now that this really should have been a review of The Stone Roses documentary, Made Of Stone, but I was in Sheffield on Saturday and the only cinema it was being shown in was on the other side of town and I'd been warned that walking around Sheffield that day might not be wise as the English Defence League are marching in town as part of Cunt Pride.
Luckily, the cinema was quite close by the hotel I was staying in so I could easily avoid the town centre where literally thousands of EDL members had come together to show their respects to a murdered soldier by silently standing at the War Memorial, bowing their heads and taking time to reflect. By that I mean there was maybe 200 of them shouting and Nazi saluting by a statue erected to commemorate those brave enough to fight fascism. That's right, the EDL want to keep England English. Just like dear old Uncle Adolf wanted.
But when I woke up, I was hungry and decided that I'm just going to have to be brave and go into the centre of town for food. Basically, I feel I can face fascism but not the price of a hotel breakfast. Also, it was 10am so I just assumed the EDL would all still be in their cots getting much needed ugly sleep. I wandered around town and saw nothing. Good old Sheffield. It's my favourite city in England and it's always a treat to walk around. I went to the brilliant vegetarian Blue Moon Cafe and ordered the full Mexican breakfast. Breakfast, afterall, is the most important anti-fascist statement meal of the day. Then on my way back to the hotel, I turned the wrong corner.
Basically, I walked down the street before the street by my hotel. It had a pub at the bottom of it and I could see some people enjoying the good weather by drinking beer outside. At 11am.
As I got closer it was clear there was around 30 men standing outside the pub and they must have cringed horribly when they met up there as they were all wearing the same outfit. Em-barra-siiiiiiiiiing!! They even all the same hair-do. Even their arms had the same drawings on them (angry puppy with flag, the sign of the Red Cross global volunteer network, uncomfortable affection towards own mother). There weren't many other people in this street and something told me that I should turn back and go the other way. I ignored something.
Don't worry, I didn't get hurt. All they did was shout. It wasn't even all of them. Only about four of them shouted and pointed at me. Then three of them stopped doing backing vocals and let the short, angry lead vocalist do it all himself. He shouted and pointed and pointed and shouted. "You white bastard! You white bastard!"
Now, this has got very confusing.
I want to be judged on who I am, not what I am. So the "bastard" thing is fine. No argument there. But since when do white supremicists get to condemn me because of the colour of my skin? The tiny thugette was soon ignored by his friends while he walked towards me still shouting "You white bastard!" but at least he took the time to explain himself. "Get used to it, mate", he said. "Get used to it. We're all fucking white bastards in this country, mate. We're all white bastards, mate. You're a white bastard. I'm a white bastard. Mate, get used to it, mate. Mate. Mate?"
As I walked away, I thought about how that all could have happened. I mean, there is something positive and uplifting about a member of the EDL suddenly realising he's a bastard but how did it happen in the first place? At what point in his life did he think it was better to hate? At what part of his life did he come to the conclusion that his country owed him something? At what part of someone's life do they accept fascism as a righteous cause? I've often been told by friends that when they first hold their new-born baby in their arms that they can't help but cry. I understand that. But I still think it's important to choke back the tears long enough to look into the eyes of this new and important little person and whisper, "Please, please don't be a cunt".
Of course, I'm well aware that people are complex and life isn't easy. But there isn't a person in the world who thinks that shouting angrily, oppression and violence is a good thing. Just because they do it doesn't mean they think it's right. And that's what I find so confusing. So I started thinking about Liberace. "It's so easy to laugh, it's so easy to hate. It takes strength to be gentle and kind", he once sang. And he was right. Hiding from the real world behind tattoos and even bigger tattooed friends is really easy. Anyone could do it. It's the cowards way. But there were properly thousands of people outside the Sheffield City Hall showing their condemnation of the EDL and all other hate groups in the country. While thugs came to shout and Nazi salute their way onto telly, good people with no violent intentions came out to say "No, thanks". They came out to defend England.
Going to see a film about Liberace isn't just about entertainment. It's about freedom. Go, don't go. It's completely up to you and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
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